March 04, 2008

Good Things

Along with breaking the eggs, a good omelet needs some seasoning. So, to cleanse the palate, here's a list of some recent things that made me happy:

1. Just received two mint copies of Bil Lepp's story collections in the mail. I didn't even know Bil Lepp had published his stories. To my surprise, both books were autographed copies, and what's more, I didn't pay a dime for them. (Twenty-five bucks is what the market will bear right now on eBay. Not sure if that reflects acutal demand or the dire economic circumstances of West Virginia book sellers). I love how the Web enables peer-to-peer book swapping.

2. Listening with my son to an Anansi story, "Leopard's Birthday Bop" told by Ramona King

3. Discovering a delightful "new" storyteller on YouTube. I've got to hand it to Sister Unity, she's got the YouTube magic going on. Traditional tales in a nontraditional format. I love it.

4. Wiretap on the CBC (this is only tangentially related to storytelling, but I particularly enjoyed Jonathan Goldstein's recent fractured retellings of David and Goliath, and David and Bathsheba).

5. The Odyssey. Homer's The Odyssey.

Recently Cathryn Fairlee hosted an all-day telling of the Odyssey. It took seven hours, nine storytellers, and a whole lot of food to get through it-- okay, four hours for the story, and three more for the food.

Inspired by the gatherings of storytelling guilds in Canada who annually perform some epic work, such as the Canterbury Tales or the Kalevala, Cathryn has been hosting similar gatherings in California for the past three years. The first year, The Canterbury Tales, the next was The Mabigonian, and the next The Thousand Nights and One Night. But those days necessarily featured selections from the larger works. This year, she organized the tellers to get through the whole thing.

Illness took a few tellers out of the lineup (12 tellers learned a part of the story, but only nine made it that day). Stormy weather kept some of the audience away.

But what a treat... to take a day to just listen to stories. And to listen to a story that our culture knows by reference, but not by heart. Out of the twenty or so gathered to listen (and most of them storytellers), only half had ever read the Odyssey.

We're hoping Cathryn pitches a workshop to NSN for the 2009 Conference on how she organizes this. Basically, she sent out a call for local storytellers, picked a date, and divided up the books of the Odyssey. Each of the nine tellers told us the story, in their own style. The repetition of motifs and phrases, as well as the driving narrative, stitched the tellings together.

The day was not designed to be a polished performance. It was a private event, and intended as professional development for tellers. A chance for tellers to try out some epic storytelling in front of an interested and supportive audience (and they will repeat their part again in the Fall at a second hosted gathering).

And we were all very proud of ourselves for getting to hear the Odyssey in a single day.


About Sean Buvala said...

Holy freaking cow on Sister Unity. What a great thing he's got going there. For crying out loud, thanks for posting that one.

Wow. I wonder if he's waiting for national recognition. LOL.

Wind. Into.,

Anonymous said...

LOL! I just recently discovered Sister Unity. She is my idol! If for no other reason than the makeup! But seriously, he is fabulous.