Monday, July 20, 2009

story is us: fiction matters

This is a fabulous article from the Washington Post, a series of vignettes by the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano. The piece is a few weeks old but the stories of how writing matters are timeless. Here's an example:

The Bolivian town of Llallagua lived from the mine, and in the mine its miners died. Deep in the shafts in the bowels of the mountains, they hunted veins of tin and lost, in a few short years, their lungs and their lives.

I spent some time there and made good friends.

The last night, we were drinking, my friends and I, singing laments and telling bad jokes till just before dawn.

When little time remained before the scream of the siren that would call them to work, my friends fell silent, all of them at once. Then one asked, or pleaded, or ordered: "And now, my brother, tell us about the sea."

I was speechless.

They insisted: "Tell us. Tell us about the sea."

It was the most difficult challenge in all my storytelling life. None of these miners would ever know the sea; each was doomed to die young. And I had no choice but to bring them the sea, the sea that was so far away, discovering words that could drench them to the bone.

translated by Mark Fried
(thanks, Karina)

Fiction is entertainment, yes. (It can't work, otherwise.) But fiction, story, is more. It is culture. It is us.

We are accelerating our own evolution--which is what will save us (if anything can) from extinction. We're doing it via the production and consumption of extra somatic information, the internal recreation of others' experiences. Before there was photography, before there was cinema--and radio and YouTube--there were books. Books matter. Go buy one. Buy a new one. Support a writer.