Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Another in a series of posts of "Stories about stories" -- segments from "This American Life" and other sources that are about storytelling itself.

"RETRACTION": The entire last episode of This American Life is a discussion of why the show had to retract an earlier episode, which was of theater artist Mike Daisy's "reporting" on Apple Computer's manufacturing practices in China. Turns out that Mike Daisy made up a bunch of the material to make it more dramatic. He half defends himself by saying this was a theater piece, not journalism, but admits that he should never have passed it off to This American Life as fact. And in an exchange between Daisy and TAL host Ira Glass, there are some of the most uncomfortable moments -- and longest silences -- I've heard on radio! It's not only compelling listening, but further demonstration of This American Life's integrity. A great story about storytelling, fact vs. fiction, journalistic responsibility, and the like.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


STORYTELLING IN JAPANESE ART: The Metropolitan Museum has up an impressive show on the topic through May 6. And, handily, they have some great images and explanatory text on their website, so click the link above. The stories are as varied as the format -- myths, war stories, tales of adventure and romance, told through text and illustrations on playing cards, folding panels, and, most interestingly, long scrolls. The scrolls are especially evocative of time; sure, there's the sense of time passing in a bound book as you turn the pages, but as you read the scrolls from one end to the next there's a sense of the flow of time, of events literally rolling out before you. These are, of course, metaphors for how real-life events happen -- they unfold or roll out, or you turn the page. Perhaps as our reading formats change yet again, we'll soon be saying "swipe the screen" to connote the same thing. But I digress, check out the Met's page on the show!

GROUNDSWELL: ORAL HISTORY FOR SOCIAL CHANGE: A network billing itself as "Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change" has launched its website. Groundswell includes "oral historians, activists, cultural workers, community organizers, and documentary artists," and they "use oral history and narrative in creative, effective and ethical ways to support movement building and transformative social change." They have a thoughtful report on their inaugural 2011 gathering, and are set to offer a "Practitioner Support Network," future gatherings, and other resources. 

NARRATIVE THEOLOGY AT MARS HILL BIBLE CHURCH: Mars Hill Bible Church, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and founded by (now) best-selling author Rob Bell has what it calls a "narrative theology." All faiths and denominations and houses of worship tell stories, and "narrative theology" has been around for decades (e.g. Hans Frei). Still, I haven't seen a church that so clearly states that storytelling is its very mode of theology: "The word theology comes from two Greek words: 'theos', meaning 'God', and 'logos', meaning 'word'. So theology is words about God. When we put to words what we believe about God, we discover that God has been writing a story of hope and redemption for all the world. This story is a movement from creation to new creation, and God has given us a role to play in that story, in the restoration of our relationships with God, each other, ourselves, and creation. Since story is central to our belief about God, our words about God—our theology—exists in the form of a narrative." The church's website also has a space for members' personal stories of faith, and stories of good works they want to highlight.