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Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Where Do You Get Your "Call" Stories?
If you heard me say the above sentence in the unmistakable voice of Garrison Keillor, then you are a fan of the Writers Almanac. It happens to come on to my local NPR station at 8:37am each morning, which means I often hear it on my way to work.
In just a few minutes time, Keillor manages to tell what I see as “call stories”-- examples of novelists, poets, and other people who are doing or have done what they do out of a sense of passion and deep values. The example above of Thoreau is typical. The words come to me as I drive down the highway in my Volkswagen, heading to work where I will type on a computer while sitting in air conditioned comfort. It is not exactly Walden. Still, I find the Writer’s Almanac actually helps me to live, as Thoreau said, more “deliberately.” When I am told the life stories of others, hearing of their perseverance and conviction, it helps me to live with perseverance and conviction as well.
Almost every day there is some example of what it means to live your call from of Writer’s Almanac. Here are a few examples from the past few days of the show:
*The call to create something good out of a painful situation: “After a young pig he was raising got sick and he failed to save its life, he (E.B. White) wrote one of his most famous essays, "Death of a Pig." Then he wrote a children's novel in which the pig doesn't have to die: Charlotte's Web (1952). It's the story of a runt pig named Wilbur who is saved the first time by a little girl and the second time by a wise spider. It is one of the best-selling children's books of all time.”
*The call to persevere: “Mystery Novelist Donald Westlake got 204 rejection slips before his first book was published.”
*The call to both activism and enjoyment: "My conviction simply is that power must always be defeated, that the struggle must always continue to defeat power. I don't go looking for fights. I'm really a very lazy person. I enjoy my peace and quiet. There's nothing I love better than just to sit quietly somewhere, you know, have a glass of wine, read a book, listen to music." (Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka)
*The call to improve things through satire: "Satire is the bringing to ridicule of vice, folly and humbug. All the negatives imply a set of positives. Certainly in this country, you only go round saying, 'That's wrong, that's corrupt' if you have some feeling that it should be better than that. People say, 'You satirists attack everything.' Well, we don't, actually. That's the whole point." (Ian Hislop, editor of The Private Eye)
And finally back to E.B. White for my favorite “call” line of the past few days:
"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."
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