Since my days of formative reading, I’ve been inclined to reserve all judgements – except, that is, in matters of stylistic representation. If there’s one thing which makes us all writers in some respect, it’s the telling of our own stories, the recounting and narratological adaptation of our lives into screenplays projected into the eyelids of another. In primary school, recount was the first form of writing we learnt. “Write about your excursion to the beach”; “recount a highlight moment of your holidays”. We’re all born storytellers, but that initial spark disappears all too quickly within the triptych of Exposition, Development, and Recapitulation (or, as they said in primary school, Introduction-Complication-Resolution). Focus too much on plot, and the true heart of your story – the shimmering mirage of a chance observation, an echo weathered down to diamond by memory – will fall from its ribcage to bounce down the wayside, caked in the dust and murk of polite disinterest.
When I tell stories, I make all the mistakes. Details are omitted then doubled back to by way of back-street tangents, hoisted up from the brooding corners where they’ve slunk to. Events of great magnitude are reduced to shrunken-head footnotes and strung up on beads around amusing minutiae, inflated past the point of verbobesity. I ask my audience where I was going with my story, not to create engagement via dialogue but because I’ve genuinely forgotten. I ramble, I dissociate, I laugh at my own jokes. Even the old legends – the formative writings of chance and coincidence which ricocheted me into my current status – get warped and regurgitated anew with each new telling. If my prose has a reputation for concision, my spoken word is literally eloquent: talkative, in an outward direction, with no end.
On the weekend, as I climbed a hill, I overtook a young girl who was pushing her bicycle upwards with difficulty. Her father, already some hundred metres ahead, soon noticed this filial absence and doubled back. He quietly took hold of his daughter’s bike and pushed it up to the hill’s zenith, at which she remounted and pedalled away without a backward glance. That is the sort of tale which needs no embellishment nor explanation. It is too quiet a tale to tell at parties or gatherings or first dates with people who already believe in you as a writer before you’ve even met. Its rightful place is sequestered in your empty ribcage, passing judgement on all you say is true.