Where "show, don’t tell," should be legalized…

Don’t talk the talk; write it. Arthur Krystal wrote a good article in the Sunday NYT’s book review that should be sent to all radio interviewers.

Its premise: Writers don’t necessarily make for good story tellers, or even conversationalists. It upsets me unconditionally when I read or hear an interview where the author is being asked to explain what their book means. I always think of that (now cliche) quote of Martha Graam’s (I think it was she) who said, “If I knew what it meant, I wouldn’t dance it.”

Before my first novel came out at the turn of the First Century, I gave it to a friend of mine with the following instructions: “Read it. When you’re done, I’ll buy you dinner and wine. All you need to do is tell me what my book is about.” And he did. This sounds insane, I know. But it makes perfect sense to me. What’s my book mean? I don’t know. What’s your life mean? In some ways, I think it’d be more effective to interview an author about him or herself when their book first comes out (that’s a topic rich with exploration) and then, four years down the line give ’em a call and say, “Hey, any chance you’ve had time to think about your book? Might you have some thoughts on what it might be about? No? Okay. I’ll call you back.”


There may be no empirical basis for this, but if, as some scientists claim, different parts of the brain are switched on by our using a pen instead of a computer — and the cognitive differences are greater than what might be expected by the application of different motor skills — then why shouldn’t there be significant differences in brain activity when writing and speaking?

So the next time you hear a writer on the radio or catch him on the tube or watch him on the monitor or find yourself sitting next to him at dinner, remember he isn’t the author of the books you admire; he’s just someone visiting the world outside his study or office or wherever the hell he writes. Don’t expect him to know the customs of the country, and try to forgive his trespasses when they occur.

Here’s a little story-telling grid I found online. Not only can’t I tell a story, I can’t even understand the fucking grid.


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