Tuesday, 4 November 2008

978 - Suburban Anarchy and Storytelling

At the checkout, at the local supermarket, I piled an average basket of groceries onto the belt. The checkout girl told me that her car had been broken into the day before.

"They put a crowbar to it - " she said, "In the car-park, here. But they didn't take anything. I had a brand new stereo in it, but they didn't take it."

She was shaking her head, with a rueful smile, that her thieves should have been so stupid.

I bought the groceries (too much chocolate) and took the story with me.

This is my big ponder: is storytelling the key to unlocking the power of anarchy in suburbia? Stories only work amongst equals. And everyone loves a story. The sharing of a story - the listening to, as well as the telling of it - is the fundamental democratic act. It transcends material economy, because whether material goods are present or absent, a story can be told about our engagement, or lack of engagement, with them. With each other, too. And everything is a story, isn't it?

Robert McKee, a lecturer on scriptwriting, is good on the tools of narrative:

"A storyteller is a life poet, an artist who transforms day-to-day living, inner life and outer life, dream and actuality into a poem whose rhyme scheme is events rather than words...."

Story (Methuen, 1999, p.25).

He's talking about the medium of film. What he says holds for all forms of storytelling - novels, journalism, blogging, dance. And, I think, the medium in which anarchy is most at home - real life itself.

We have remarkable freedom to arrange the events of our lives in poetry schemes. Emma and I married on my birthday. She achieved a doctorate on her own - she aimed for it, but it was a realistic aim, and life fell in such a way that she achieved it. I developed cancer in the months after I left my job - not before, not after: there's poetry there. It is possible to live your life as a story, whether or not anyone is watching. Life lived as a warm, engaging story will probably engage others warmly in it, and if not, do you really care? Generation Y, who are often accused of living lives as if they are on TV, have grasped something fundamentally important here.

So, to Whitley. If Whitley Bay is lived warmly, if it allows for itself the thrills and risk of an adventure, if it builds romance and a deep interior life, it will thrive and be remembered. To live like this means, by definition, to allow that all are equal in the sharing of the tale, and suburban anarchy grows.


Steve said...

The guy in the supermarket, over the bridge, says his cat is the best hunter in the universe. It managed to trap a large seagull, at the fields at the back of his house.

In terms of the yet to happen debate about the litter on Saturday morning's I have a photo of a seagull "mid air" with a kebab in its beak if anyone is interested.

Steve Lancaster said...

That'd be the same supermarket then!

I wonder what other stories the checkout guys and girls have to tell? Great to start collecting them. Definitely more reasons to shop there...

And I've seen the seagulls! There's a whopper comes and lands on the road outside our house. Cars swerve to avoid him (her?). He looks like he's checking out the sets for a remake of 'The Birds'. Will look out on your blog for the kebab snatcher (and the litter debate)...