Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Stories We Tell

Mother would have been 101 today. She died a few years ago, falling a little short of her goal to reach one hundred. The youngest girl and second youngest child in a family of three girls and eight boys, she transformed the playful teasing of seven older brothers into family stories she told us. Like all storytellers, she remembered only the funny, the good, the ironic, and skillfully layered the telling with suspense and dialog. Over the years those stories became well-honed instruments of humor, instruction, tradition.

She knew all about characterization, and so we learned the foibles, quirks, and yes, even virtues, of all our uncles, and our two aunts. She knew the importance of setting: farm life with cows, pigs, horses, an outhouse, and shenanigans became the envy of our city-dwelling childhood. She understood plot and climax - indeed - her tales told were better than bedtime stories read and reread because sometimes a familiar ending already anticipated with glee would have an even more delightful twist. Something she had "just remembered." She was a craftsman. I miss her.

As a storyteller, I don't think I've done as well for my children - but my daughter's children (once again small farm dwellers and world travelers) will have many tales to tell their children.

Happy Birthday, Mother!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Parts Imply There's a Whole

Synecdoche is a term describing our poetic tendency to allow a part to stand for the whole: "hands were clapping" we say, and assume bodies were attached. Likewise with "There's a hundred head of cattle down by the river." We all understand, although, if you think about it - it's an amusing image.

Synecdoche - a useful device. We sometimes name people for their body parts, or even an entire group of people by a city, "Washington thinks ...", "Hollywood believes ...", and you can think of many more. Synecdoche can border on generalization, humorous or cruel.

But this blog is not about synecdoche, really. No one would read it. It's just a Blog Name not taken by anyone else which implies I'll be talking about little pieces I see that might make up some sort of whole I assume exists. But, perhaps the small part of the pattern we see is all that exists. No whole!

I could have easily named this blog "Slouching Toward Senility," or "Tottering Toward Totality" or some such - but I figured those titles would be even more off-putting. The point is to be read by someone.