Is the Play the Thing?

The play's the thing, perhaps. Or maybe music's the thing. Or the beat, the rhythm, the lyrical style... the story, the story line?

The speaker (Brian Doyle) at our local writers' group called us storycatchers. He said the story's the thing. The story's what brings reader and writer to a place without words. And the story chooses its own form--poem, list, memoir, essay, novel... Catch the story when you can. Write it without form or reason (or thought). Then edit or throw away. You can always throw something out, but you can only catch it when it's there.

So the story's the thing, and the play, song, beat, rhythm, style are all subsidiary. Or else they're taking up too much space.


Anyway, there really is a play hid there among the books I read recently. And it's certainly a "thing." Find some coffee. Let's read!

The Gap Of Time by Jeanette Winterson isn't a play, but it's a "cover" for Shakespeare's Winter's Tale. It's a slightly odd read--very British I guess, combining the external observer feel of a play with the very personal characterization of a novel. Sit back with a coffee, enjoy the ride, and you'll be thoroughly hooked by the end, calculating who's who and wishing you remembered how Shakespeare resolved it all. (Hint, it's about forgiveness.) Enjoy with some elegant complex four-star coffee.

Next is another novel with a play-like feel, JR Wirth's In Passing. This one's pure novel, but the scene-changes have a very movie or play-like sense to them. Imagine teen tragic romance combined with the movie It's a Wonderful Life. But the teen's grown up and recalling her near-death experience for a trainee priest who's busy writing his thesis. A slightly paranormal romance hides in the telling of wounded youths, saved from suicide or worse by not-quite-angels. Oddly enthralling once you get past the play-like separation of the start, this is one to enjoy with some dark intense five-star coffee.

Stories of Music Volume 1 by Holly E Tripp is a compelling collection of poetry, artwork, essays, and links to music and speech online. The pieces are beautifully put together, not in forced into boxes in sections but carefully positioned so each one leads to the next, making for a feast of sound and sense, to be enjoyed altogether or separately. I wasn't expecting to love it, but I did. Enjoy with well-balanced, smooth three-star coffee.

Which leads to art as story, I guess, as in The Bestowing Son by Neil Grimmett--a novel that aptly illustrated the storycatcher idea from our writers' meeting. The artist in this novel catches history in paint, creating stories from the scenery of real life. But his own story eludes him, turning things dark, and his muse is ever slightly out of reach. A haunting, slow, beautiful novel, enjoy with some intense five-star coffee.

But I promised a play, so here's my review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne. Imagine volume 7 with all its darkness, combined with the childlike fun of volume 1, and you'll get the picture. The production must be incredible though, if those things described in the play really reach the stage. Enjoy with some fairly lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee--it's not one to spend too long pondering over.

The Harry Potter play has lots of intriguing time-travel, as does the teen novel Not My Life by Bob Kat. Actually, it would be kind of fun to see this series turned into movies or plays. Each novel stands alone perfectly, though it's fun to watch the characters grow, especially since they're very plausible teens, just reaching that does-he-love-me, does-she-love-me stage. There's a jock, a nerd, a cheerleader and the new girl. There's a tramp under the bridge. And there's a travesty of justice waiting to be righted in the past. Enjoy with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

And then decide, is the play the thing, or the story?


Jim Ross said…
Lots to ponder here, Sheila--all of it helpful, starting with the suggestion given by your club speaker. It's been said many ways, but your story can stay fluid much longer, and you can travel many paths as they open for you--if you use it. I do when I feel vulnerable about the work I'm planning. For instance, if I've been on a steady diet of non-fiction and technical jargon, highly structured, I know I'd better loosen up with reading deeply emotional non-linear reading--poetry, novels-- and write some various-length poetry, anything that delves into murky places and can only resolve themselves on emotional terms. Without that effort my novels become stiff, structured versions of themselves, and worse, don't explore avenues MOST likely to make the pages pop. Find the metaphors, find the links between them, let the waters flow in their temperature layers. The book will be interesting, the author happy with the work, and reviews might just come trickling in. It all benefits reader enjoyment and enlightenment., and hopefully loosens tongues enough for feedback that you're on the right track.
Sheila Deeth said…
He was certainly a great speaker and he fed us a very varied diet of humor, pathos, anger (fury even) and generosity - all in the space of two hours!

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