Tuesday, June 21, 2011

do we also tell the same story?

Recently I heard a great interview with Ann Patchett on--of course--my favorite public radio station NHPR.  Actually I have heard her three times talking about this book--she is definitely getting her work out there. Now you have probably heard of Ms Patchett--she wrote the best selling book--State of Wonder--set in the jungles of the Amazon River.  What I noticed was she always tells the same story about her inspiration and research for this book. She did go down to the Amazon for ten days--loved the first three days of her trip and then felt claustrophobic for the remainder of the time. After all in the Amazon you can't just go for a little stroll. Death is just around the corner. No sky to be seen--only trees and more trees.

Indeed as one interviewer, Virginia Prescott of NHPR noted--this sense of claustrophobia is also one of the themes of Ms Patchett's other books--Bel Canto, Run, The Magician's Assistant. You can read more about Ms Patchett HERE. And Ms Patchett who has clearly thought about this question replied--and I paraphrase:

We all have one story to tell.

Interesting statement isn't it? Are we all just going around the same story--the same concept--over and over again from different angles--whether it is the interactions of a small group of people in a confined space--or in my case, the feeling of space and the interaction of color in the landscapes of our memory? Certainly there are lots of authors who have a point of view--think of T.C. Boyle or Anita Shreve--don't you have some idea when you start one of their books what the mood will be? Can't one identify the baskets of a Kari Lonning? Isn't this what is meant by a point of view?

But don't the stories change as a person changes--either because they change technique or have different experiences? Didn't Bob Dylan's stories change as his life changed and he went electric? What about the many stories that Woody Allen tells--sometimes painfully personal, sometimes relaxed into broader explorations?

And how much is pre-ordained and how much the result of telling the story once and then wanting to explore it from a different point of view? Is Ann Patchett destined to write novels about claustrophobia
or could each novel raise questions for the next one? There are so many questions I want to ask. I know that I too have the story that I tell to those who are looking at my quilts. And yet I do change the story as questions are asked and the story evolves so that over time it differs significantly from the original. Yes this quilt views of the dawn is related to prairie sky.

Yes, they are the same story. But such different themes on the same story. Trying to create the feeling of space. A place to go to. Openness and freedom. The play of the colors.

Same theory as the rolling hills. Little short stories in time and space. Each piece teaches me something I will use in the next piece. Indeed I frequently dream of the next piece as I finish the current one. Should I try it in browns? What about greens? Greys? A quieter blue. Always more possibilities than I can possibly make? As Anne Truitt says, the problem is not in designing the next piece but in choosing which of the many pieces she has designed she should actually make.

I remember a discussion I had with a friend of mine Carol many many years ago. She had befriended a woman much older than herself. Carol said the conversations were always fascinating. The older woman said the questions were always the same--even though the answers might be different. Isn't that interesting and telling.

I want to ask Ms Patchett if she finds that the same thing is true.  Such an interesting question to muse about. What do you think? Do we all have one story? Does it change over time? Does telling the story over and over again help define the questions? Do the answers change? And how do you choose which questions to ask? Which stories to tell?

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