Friday, May 29, 2015

Langage Plain Enough to Comprehend

Over the years I have encountered the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln in histories and various collections of his wit and wisdom.  I knew already I had a collection of quotes of his on my bookshelf, but I still chose to buy this slim volume at a neighbor's garage sale.

Edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi 2007 Fall River Press

Here is a quote from page three that my desire to communicate well can take to heart:

I can say this, that among my earliest recollections I remember how, when a mere child, I used to get irritated when anybody talked to me in a way I could not understand...I can remember going to my little bedroom, after hearing the neighbors talk of an evening with my father, and spending no small part of the night walking up and down, and trying to make out what was the exact meaning of some of their, to me, dark sayings.  I could not sleep, though I often tried to, when I got on such a hunt after an idea, until I had caught it; and when I thought I had got it, I was not satisfied until I had repeated it over and over, until I had put it in language plain enough, as I thought, for any boy I knew to comprehend.
 A remark by  President Abraham Lincoln made to Reverend J.P. Gulliver, from Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln by F.B. Carpenter

Another way this childhood remembrance of Lincoln's desire to understand adult communication encouraged me is that it validated the theme and intent of a short story I wrote a few years back and which I had recently pulled from the drawer to refine up a bit.

I need to clean out those heavy file folders in my drawers and  I hope to do it without being too rough on some of those early manuscripts.  A little validation and encouragement might give me just the right touch.  I miss having a fireplace though...somehow burning old journals and rough drafts feels different than shredding them.  Perhaps it is just that crackle and warmth of the fire versus the mechanical sound of the sheering teeth of the shredder slicing the words into confetti that still needs to be recycled. Ah, but there is is something to the instant finality of flame licking through those pages one wrote and saved and then released as somehow no longer needed...especially those not written in language plain enough to be truly comprehended.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Author Robert Raynolds ...What is at the heart of any story?

This book begins with a very gracious setting of tone and scene. 
     The narrative character is a Roman,a pagan,the son of a senator, and a very ambitious man.  He opens the story by sharing a conviction he says he  was born with,that life is good. This,his earliest conviction, has stayed with him in his more than seventy years. Before beginning the action of his story at the climax of the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Great, the narrator wants first to give a view of his Roman world and he says he wants  "... to fulfill the ancient courtesy of introducing myself, a Roman." (page 9 The Sinner of Saint Ambrose by Robert Raynolds (c)  1952) 

A few pages later our narrator says: hope by now I have conveyed in words something of that warm subtle sense of an actual meeting-how it is to feel the presence of a man before you know his name or hear his story. ( p 13)

And so we meet up with history through the fictive autobiography of Gregory Julian. Author Robert Raynolds artfully tends not to intrude, but I believe I do hear his hope in this passage below: 
 “ I have always been able to find a man or a woman who sensed what I felt and understood what I was talking about.  I think it is as simple as this, that people know life is at center an almost incredible mystery, and we love to communicate our strangeness to one another.  For the true interest of a man’s life to himself and to others is not only in what he did in the lusty days of his doing, but this interest resides deeply also in what the man thinks about it all when he finally matures, reflects and weighs for value. Then the open heart understands the wordless and the unexplained, and in my experience, compassion and sympathy are established.  This is a delightful thought, for it leads me to hope that between the lines of my story the reader is going to meet and understand the inner man of my heart.  For his interior life is the vital part of the man.”( Page 12) is often a storyteller's hope that: "...between the lines of my story, the reader is going to meet and understand the inner man of my heart..."

    "Perhaps one of the tragedies of human society is this, that no public man is as good as his private self might have been.  Or it could be put the other way around, since we are all part public, that society is composed of the tragedies of people.  Once he knows this, a sane man and compassionate man will love individuals more and more and society less." ( page 11)

 I found this book in a second hand shop with  a "Book of the Month Club" review still tucked into it and found myself reading all 443 pages of the tale. 

It's a compelling story; old Romans have quite a bit they can teach us. 
"What use is it for a corrupt generation to preach moral precepts to it's children?...When the state dishonors its obligation...justice is sold,  hatred is preached...children can see for themselves...For have not adults set before them these examples of how life is lived?" ( page 396)

Center pages of the Book of the month Club Review

You are in good hands with this narrator...and his author. "As I said, I was born with a fundamental confidence that life is good.  The fact that I have lived seventy-odd years would not amount to much unless I had been able to retain a respect for life and an affection for people. ( Page 13)

"At the heart of any story I could ever tell would be the tragic wonder of the human spirit..." (page 13)


It is certainly a good question for any storyteller to ask themselves...what is at the heart of any story I tell?

best to you,

P.S.  I have not yet seen any other of  Robert Raynold's work but here are a few titles: 

Brothers in the West
The Choice to Love
In Praise of Gratitude 
Thomas Wolfe: Memoir of a Friendship