Go to Homepage  

The Story Hour

It's no story I tell ya! The one that got away was this BIG!

My husband claims he stopped reading fiction when he started graduate school. He lies. He buys The Weekly World News religiously and reads the best bits to me in a thrilling, throbbing baritone that would've made him a mint in the Golden Age of Radio.

Not that I mind. Our definitions of fiction differ, not our choices for recreational reading -- at least not much. He reads about Bat Boy conferring with the president to forestall alien interference in weather patterns. I read about Count Dracula taking tea (and other body fluids) with Queen Victoria to preclude a universal plague and the end of history as we know it. Seems much of a muchness to me.

While we're on the subject of history (my husband's subject, as it happens), ever read some of those late Roman and early medieval histories? The one contemporary description of the camp of Attila the Hun reads like Michael Crichton crossed with Robert E. Howard. But what would you expect from the Hun who, according to not much later historians, died hemorrhaging all over his fiftieth wife on their wedding night? And let's not forget 6th century historian Gregory of Tours, who opened one of his gossipy narratives of Frankish court life with: "I suppose I should tell you how Clothaire came to marry his wife's sister." Clothaire's wife, as Gregory's preceding chapter makes clear, was very much alive at the time and still very much married to the nominally Catholic King Clothaire.

If all these reports sound suspiciously fictional, they should. The human mind craves a good story, however you label it. The urge seems to transcend entertainment. Susan Vreeland, for example, used her storytelling gifts to heal herself of the symptoms of lymphoma no surgeon or therapy could touch. Now she uses her fiction to connect a worldwide audience to the beauty and spirit of art.

The theme of connecting through fiction also infuses the work of Suzanne Brockmann. Brockmann, a dedicated rule-breaker, connected with a whole different culture when she began writing stories featuring Navy SEALs. But in one sense, she started connecting with different worlds long before, when she started participating in the fan cultures of her favorite TV shows. Now she enjoys fans of her own, including many military personnel and their spouses.

Not only that, but both women know how to make stories of their lives. Who needs Bat Boy? To paraphrase Shakespeare, the story's the thing wherewith we catch the conscience of the king -- and the globe.

Jean Marie Ward

Click here to share your views.