Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…

A Window

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I’m a sucker for a good story.

And if that story comes packaged in good storytelling – even better. Evocative writing has the power to transport me to distant lands, to bring me inside the life of a bullfighter, a private investigator, a corrupt president, a grieving widow, an adolescent wizard. I have read sentences that take my breath away.

Of course, I have read countless more that deaden my senses and leave me grasping for something to hold onto, to connect with. Take Marley and Me, for instance. From all the hype, I knew it was a sweet story about a family and a dog growing up together. But I was so distracted by John Grogan’s overseasoned metaphors in every other paragraph to appreciate it.

Just as a good storyteller can make a world come alive, a bad teller can make magic and mystery seem mundane.

This past week, I read Pam Reed’s The Extra Mile: One Woman’s Personal Journey to Ultrarunning Greatness. Reed’s tale could be a powerful one. After battling anorexia for fifteen years, the twice-married mother of three went on to compete at the elite level of endurance sports, racing in dozens of 100+ mile ultras, and even winning the infamous Badwater two years in a row.

As a runner, Reed is a golden girl. As a writer, however, she leaves something to be desired. I found myself struggling to get into the story amidst the poorly constructed sentences and utter lack of cohesive narrative. She hops from race to race, from child to child, from job to job, without offering any sort of broader context for her life. As much as I wanted to embrace the story of the most famous female American ultra-runner (‘famous’ being a relative term, as she tells her readers at length), I had a hard time connecting with her, both as an athlete and as a person.

I don’t fancy myself a particularly powerful writer, but I have pretty strong opinions when it comes to how people craft narrative. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the power of a story to connect us. But a story can only be as good as the words and images people use to tell it.

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2 responses to “A Window

  1. N.D. January 31, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    You are such a good writer and reviewer. I never had these qualities. It’s no wonder you are teaching! Good luck on your run!

  2. RunToFinish January 31, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    There you are, been wondering what you’ve been up to….clearly wading through a not soo good book! I have some book reviews coming, hopefully the last 2 about running that I’m reading will be good!

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