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Everybody has to start somewhere...

Everybody has to start somewhere…

Simplia had smashed her eyes shut and was holding her head in her hands.

“What are you going on about this time?” asked Sagacia.

“A couple of weeks ago, my brain felt as though it would IMplode under the pressure of my voluminous ignorance, and now it feels as though it will EXplode with the effort of ingesting this required reading list.”

“What required reading list?!” her friend asked.

“The one Eavesdropping in Evanston asked for. The one that all storytellers should have under their belts before they can be bona fide storytellers.”

“Whoa! We’re not looking for a required reading list. How silly would that be? Two Simpletons publishing anything so weighty … or full of hubris. No, you goose. It’s a suggested list of works one might use to enrich one’s experience in telling, listening, writing, reading…”

“Really?” Simplia slumped into the barcalounger with a relieved, “Whew!”

Then she sat up again, to see what had made the crumpling noise as her rear end hit the chair seat. It was a manila envelope inside of which she discovered notes from Magical Friends…additions to the already daunting — but blessedly VOLUNTARY — reading list.

Richard Marsh had suggested James MacKillop’s Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology; Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Norse Myths; Japanese Fairy Tales translated by Grace James and by online sources; and his own Spanish and Basque Legends.

Barra the Bard weighed in again with Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Dorothy Sayers translation being recommended for scholarship and John Ciardi’s for authentic voice.

Papa Joe had written on the back of a bank deposit receipt, “Bocaccio. The Decameron.”

“So there’s a few more to add to the list,” said Sagacia. “There’s one more sheet of paper in there. What does it say?”

Simplia unfolded it and said, “It’s from Richard Martin.”

“…(T)he more I tell, and the more I hear other tellers, the more convinced I become of the need to know more of the foundations we base our art on. Last week at the Aachen festival I was struck by my ignorance when the UK teller Tuup told me about an 11th century Indian narrative which was the basis of his performance, The King and the Corpse. (I’ve just ordered my copy.)

When I started telling on stage about 25 years ago, my wife — very accurately — identified it as an ego trip. I feel whatever progress I have made in the intervening time has been to reduce the ego. An epiphany in this respect was some feedback Hugh Lupton gave that his ideal on stage was to become transparent, so that listeners could move through him into the world of the story. This is where I sense the need to understand more through a greater grounding in the tales of the past. Those tales are a lot bigger than I am. 

When I am dead, few will remember me, and only for a very short time. But the truth of those tales will survive — as long as tellers are there to tell them.

(And, yes, I do tell personal tales: afterwards in the pub.)

Simplia looked at the letter for a long time. Then she said, “I better get cracking on this reading list. I have a lot of catching up to do.”