Sharing a Story

Gp Set a Watcman
I think we are a region of natural storytellers, just from tribal instinct. We did not have the pleasure of the theater, the dance, of motion pictures when they came along. We simply entertained each other by talking.

~ Harper Lee

Yes, Virginia, there is another novel out by Harper Lee, at least, Harper-Collins put her name on the jacket. Depending on who you ask, either Go Set a Watchman is a prequel/sequel to the quintessential great American novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, or a money grab perpetrated by evil greedy New York publisher types.

Whether the now infirm nursing homebound resident of little Monroeville, Alabama had said manuscript squirreled away for half a century or not may never be known for sure. Like the talking heads on the Sunday Morning news shows, anyone who has read the book, watched the movie, or seen the episode of Everybody Loves Raymond where Raymond buys Debra a first edition has an opinion on the matter. And, like those aforementioned talking heads, everyone has an opinion and, well — You get the picture.

Until I finish reading Go Set a Watchman I withhold my not so sought after opinion as to its authenticity. What I can say for now is that catching up on all things Harper Nell Lee, I am reminded again why the American south has such a rich heritage of endearing novels like Mockingbird. Those of us born and bred south of the Mason-Dixon never met a story we didn’t like – or, at least, felt compelled to share.    

Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions.

Lest you think sharing is a word confined to southern life, the above quote is from Brazilian novelist, Paulo Coelho. After all, what is a novel if not the sharing of a story?

Not long after the release of the one book, I am sure Lee wrote – and not that glory hound, Truman Capote – Lee granted an interview with Roy Newquist which later appeared in Counterpoint. Newquist asked Lee why the south had been able to offer such a rich heritage of grand storytelling. It is amazing that the  greatest selling fiction work and second greatest selling non-fiction work (Capote’s In Cold Blood) of the 20th Century were written by neighbors in a cut-off place like rural south-east Alabama. Lee’s reply in that interview is most insightful.

Well, first of all you have to consider who Southerners are. We run high to Celtic blood and influence. We are mostly Irish, Scottish, English, and Welsh. We grew up in a society that was primarily agricultural. It was not industrial, though it is becoming so, for better or worse.

I think we are a region of natural storytellers, just from tribal instinct. We did not have the pleasure of the theater, the dance, of motion pictures when they came along. We simply entertained each other by talking.

We have rather more humor about us. We’re not taciturn or wry or laconic. Our whole society is geared to talk rather than do. We work hard, of course, but we do it in a different way. We work in order not to work. Any time spent on business is time more or less wasted, but you have to do it in order to be able to hunt and fish and gossip.

Some think storytelling is swiftly becoming a lost art. Perhaps. Or maybe the method of telling stories is evolving. There are, after all, Twitter novels out there. Good grief, I don’t even like canaries much less tweety-bird stories. To be fair, the most powerful story ever penned contains but six words. Often attributed to Hemingway but its authorship more uncertain, those few words say it all;

For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn.

So how about you? Who here will admit they have never seen or read To Kill a Mockingbird? It’s okay, I’ve never read Peyton Place – not that makes you feel any better. Who here will close their ears to the naysayers and give Go Set a Watchman a chance?

t.e. (Tim) George has seen and lived many stories in his life. As a freelance commercial writer, he helps clients tell the story of what they do. As a ghost writer, he helps people tell the story that matter most to them. But it is as a novelist that he writes stories for who matter most – you, the reader. Tim’s latest novella, Only Time, is available now at Amazon.com.
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