Brooklyn in Love and at War

History of World War Two Told Through Letters

Posts Tagged ‘public

Storytelling

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Last night I went to see The Moth Grand Slam at BB King’s Blues Club in midtown Manhattan. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, The Moth is a storytelling organization. They have a podcast and host events at which people tell true stories from their lives. The stories vary widely from funny to tragic to cute to poignant. I recommend you check it out at themoth.org. The Grand Slam was a competition between the last ten storytelling winners.

Last night’s stories were often very moving. I’m often shocked at how willing people are to stand up in front of an audience of strangers and share deeply personal narratives. But it’s true that telling a story is as important as hearing one. Some of the storytellers were trying to pass on lessons that had taken them a long time to learn and process. This, I think, is the most significant function of storytelling. I appreciate that these were not stories that were told off the cuff. They were carefully constructed, which made them all the more powerful. The art of telling a true story is complicated. Decisions like which details to include and omit drastically alter the meaning that someone walks away with. I’m sure that while the events people described were taking place their meaning was not clear. So these narrators were doing us a favor by making parts of their lives into a coherent whole for the rest of us to understand.

There isn’t always a lot of room in our daily lives to hear a complete story. These narratives were only about 5 minutes long but they enabled me feel like I knew a complete stranger. I was glad to be part of a forum that blurred the line between the personal and the public. And, because the show was in New York City, it felt more like it was a showcase of people fighting against anonymity.

So keep sharing stories everyone!

Written by Molly

May 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm

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Records: public and private

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Is everyone concerned with fading into nothingness?

I’m taking a brief respite to address why I decided to make this project something public. I believe that this process of reading letters and understanding the past is enhanced by its being shared. This forum is allowing me to create something new with records of the past that are both historical and personal. These are records that I view as valuable to the world beyond my family. On a logistical note I am pushed to continue reading and thinking about this project because the blog posts are time sensitive.  I am regularly making someone else’s work public, piece by piece, causing the events of my own life to play more directly into how I read the documents.

I’m one of those people who has kept journals (on and off, of course) for most of my life. And yet I would be mortified if they were to be made public. Well, not even if they were made public but if anyone read them.  I save, collect, and document the world around me fairly regularly. Who am I keeping these records for? I’m largely keeping them for myself, yes, but having re-read a lot of these journals I’m pretty sure that I was also writing to some imagined audience. Thirteen year-old Molly was certainly concerned that Future Molly (or whoever) might think that she was shallow or naive.  So from time to time she takes a moment to write something “deep” and “thoughtful” with words that she may or may not understand. She does all this  in an effort to assuage her own harsh judgment. Of course, this is all for naught since she ends up sounding, well, even less clever.

Herein lies the danger of a blog.  For many people a blog can become (or is created to be) a personal diary explicitly designed for the public viewer. There isn’t anything wrong with that but it makes me consider how I utilize this blog.  I wonder if I am being hypocritical by sharing private letters that two people wrote to each other while I would never want my own personal writings to be made public. These letters were not written for the public eye. While this presents certain moral ambiguities, I think Alex and Sylvia’s assumption of privacy is part of what makes the letters so important and worthwhile. The confidential nature of the letters contributes a new narrative to the story of an era that is entrenched in myth and lore, a time known for censorship and propaganda but also for democracy and righteousness. And so we persevere.

Written by Molly

May 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm

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