Monday, October 14, 2013

Story Never Dies

Every once in awhile, I see people arguing about ebooks versus print books.

Before I started reading ebooks, I was definitely on the print side of this argument. But now, well...frankly...

I don't think there is an argument.

See, the thing is, it's not really the format that's important. It's the story.

People will never not love story. They've loved it since cave man days--what do you think all those cave paintings are? Part of a story.

If you think about it, every single form of entertainment that we enjoy is part of a story. Movies, obviously, but music as well. Sometimes--such as with most country songs--it's easy to see the story. But even music without a singer tells a story.

This is Für Elise" by Beethoven, one of my favorite songs.And it tells a story. It actually has great story structure. Listen to the way it opens--it comes back to those sounds at the beginning in the final notes. This is known as a "fugue," but in the book world, it's a "theme."

All the good art is a story. There is art that is highly symbolic, such as Pre-Raphaelite art or the work of Alphonse Mucha.

But even work that's not purposefully telling a story--does. For example, probably my least favorite work of art is the Dada "Fountain" toilet by Duchamps:

It's a toilet.

But it still has a story.

Seriously. If you can look at this and think, "WTF?", then you've already fallen into the story.

All art has story. All art has story. To me, this is the definition of what art is: an object with story. And we are surrounded, all the time, by art. By story. Even something as simple as the clothes we wear has a story. I'm a huge fan of Project Runway; in the current season, my favorite designer is NCSU alum Justin Leblanc. Justin is deaf, and his most recent project tells a story--of how he got a cochlear implant and heard sound for the first time. [You can see the complete collection shown here.]

In the runway show, the first dress was solid white--his life without sound.

The next dress was dark, with splatters on the bottom, and sound waves graphically printed on the top. His life when he first heard sound, and was overwhelmed by the chaotic nature of it.

Art surrounds us--story surrounds us. And story inspires story. There is story in every tattoo...

...and there is story in this poem by Ted Kooser, "Tattoo," inspired by a time he saw an old man with a tattoo.
What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.

from Delights & Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2004
(PS: Check out these hyper-realistic tattoos! I like the cyborg ones.)

All of it is story; all of it is art. When we think of something as being "good art" or "bad art," what we're really arguing about is whether or not the story the art told strikes a cord with us. I don't like "Fountain" not because it's not art, but because the story it tells doesn't resonate with me.

This is why it doesn't matter to me if a book is print or ebook. It's the story that matters, not the medium.
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