Sunday, February 28, 2010

Stitching Stories Together

I did my first reading from The Freak Observer to a select and discerning audience at the Toucan Gallery on Montana Avenue. Chris Woolston, science and travel writer extraordinaire, warmed up the crowd. He read one of his Healthy Skeptic columns: The one about boar taint and why you may not need it in your aftershave. Tough act to follow. He knows how to tell a story.

I've mentioned elsewhere that doing a reading in a gallery means that—worst comes to worst—the suffering audience will have something interesting to look at while they endure. In this case, they were especially lucky, because the show featured the work of textile artist Maggy Rozycki Hiltner. She knows how to tell a story. The tiny reproduction above can't do it justice, not really. Here is a story of love, embarrassment, basketball, raging unicorn vengeance, and—bringing it full circle (visual pun intended)—love. The narrative, the text in the textile, is as clear as Halley's Comet in the Bayeux Tapestry.

The notion that writing is like needlework has grown threadbare with use, but it wouldn't be so ragged and faded if it weren't somehow true.

Stories get stitched together; threads get woven together into plots, words...

Well, the only thing I really have to contribute to this particular text is this: During the Great Depression my grandmother and great-grandmother sewed quilts. They used layers of newspapers as the batting between the pieced covers. They weren't elegant. They weren't  meant for pretty. They were meant to keep people warm during the winter. Now those quilts have all worn out, but the words remain. Words stitched together into stories.
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