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Category Archives: Story

Listen | Neil Gaiman on stories

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Do stories grow? Pretty obviously — anybody who has ever heard a joke being passed on from one person to another knows that they can grow, they can change. Can stories reproduce? Well, yes. Not spontaneously, obviously — they tend to need people as vectors. We are the media in which they reproduce; we are their petri dishes… Stories grow, sometimes they shrink. And they reproduce — they inspire other stories. And, of course, if they do not change, stories die.

The prolific writer Neil Gaiman is as listenable as he is readable, whether he’s reading his own books or giving talks. Here the author of the classic Sandman comics, Stardust, Neverwhere and most recently The Ocean at the End of the Lane, suggests stories are a life-form obeying the same rules of genesis, reproduction, and propagation that organic matter does. He does so in his characteristically humorous, intellectually informed and engaging manner.

Listen | Raymond Carver – “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”

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Listen to the man himself reading his most famous story. Recorded in 1983 for a radio show it is the only known recording of Raymond Carver reading his most well known story.

If the name of the story sounds familiar it may be because it is the story on which the play in the recent film ‘Birdman’ is based.

Listen here

‘Come on, Kid, let’s go get the Thing!’ W.E.B Dubois on Symantics

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Things are the reality that counts. If a thing is despised, either because of ignorance or because it is despicable, you will not alter matters by changing its name.

Do not at the outset of your career make the all too common error of mistaking names for things. Names are only conventional signs for identifying things. Things are the reality that counts. If a thing is despised, either because of ignorance or because it is despicable, you will not alter matters by changing its name. If men despise Negroes, they will not despise them less if Negroes are called “colored” or “Afro-Americans…” It is not the name – it’s the Thing that counts. Come on, Kid, let’s go get the Thing!’

W.E.B. DuBois

Read | The Transcendent Simplicity of Nature

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Written by an 18 year old Sylvia Plath in her diary:

 

On a relatively unfrequented, stony beach there is a great rock which juts out over the sea. After a climb, an ascent from one jagged foothold to another, a natural shelf is reached where one person can stretch at length, and stare down into the tide rising and falling below, or beyond to the bay, where sails catch light, then shadow, then light, as they tack far out near the horizon. The sun has burned these rocks, and the great continuous ebb and flow of the tide has crumbled the boulders, battered them, worn them down to the smooth sun-scalded stones on the beach which rattle and shift underfoot as one walks over them. A serene sense of the slow inevitability of the gradual changes in the earth’s crust comes over me; a consuming love, not of a god, but of the clean unbroken sense that the rocks, which are nameless, the waves which are nameless, the ragged grass, which is nameless, are all defined momentarily through the consciousness of the being who observes them. With the sun burning into rock and flesh, and the wind ruffling grass and hair, there is an awareness that the blind immense unconscious impersonal and neutral forces will endure, and that the fragile, miraculously knit organism which interprets them, endows them with meaning, will move about for a little, then falter, fail, and decompose at last into the anonomous [sic] soil, voiceless, faceless, without identity.

From this experience I emerged whole and clean, bitten to the bone by sun, washed pure by the icy sharpness of salt water, dried and bleached to the smooth tranquillity that comes from dwelling among primal things.

From this experience also, a faith arises to carry back to a human world of small lusts and deceitful pettiness. A faith, naïve and child like perhaps, born as it is from the infinite simplicity of nature. It is a feeling that no matter what the ideas or conduct of others, there is a unique rightness and beauty to life which can be shared in openness, in wind and sunlight, with a fellow human being who believes in the same basic principles.

 

Sylvia Plath

Read | Science and Spirituality

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Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. So are our emotions in the presence of great art or music or literature, or of acts of exemplary selfless courage such as those of Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Read | Literature and Understanding

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Proust – Swann’s Way

Read | Thinking

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Listen | Samsa & Seuss

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What if Kafka’s Gregor Samsa wrote to Dr Seuss to help him with his aliment? Maybe it would go like this:

“Is metrical rhyme an American mode of correspondence?”

Read | Kurt Vonnegut on Making Your Soul Grow

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From Letters of Note

In 2006 a New York City high school English teacher set her class the assignment of writing to their favorite author to persuade them to come and visit the school. Five pupils wrote to Kurt Vonnegut. He was the only author to reply and what he says he says with wonderful simplicity.

 

November 5, 2006

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana. 

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, butrhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

Read – Bettering Myself, Ottessa Moshfegh

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240/366 by Beth Parnaby

Image by Beth Parnaby

A short story from the Paris Review about a female teacher trying to get through life with a fair amount of cigarettes and alcohol. Involving and atmospheric. I read it sitting in the Barbican whilst waiting.

Paris Review – Bettering Myself, Ottessa Moshfegh.

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