Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shrink To Fit.

I found this book on a hallstand at my ex-girlfriend's parent's house in Hudson, Quebec. It doesn't belong to me - the sticker on the front cover indicates that its rightful owner is her Grandmother, and even indicates her address in Guelph, should I ever feel the inclination to return it to her. The byline suggests that the book is "a native narrative" (native in this instance should be taken to mean First Nations, or North American Indian), but a better description is in the title. 'Jeez,' I remember thinking, 'That's an ostentatious claim. I better check this out.'

If anything, it's a narrative about narrative. Each and every chapter begins with the same traditional First Nations story, with a few details changed here and there - the location of the story, the description of the character. Immediately after telling the story the author - Thomas King - invokes the title, stating that "The truth about stories is that that's all we are." Then, after telling a number of autobiographical stories, he finishes each and every chapter with slight variations on this paragraph:

"Take this story, for instance. It's yours. Do with it what you will. Cry over it. Get angry. Forget it. But don't say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story.

You've heard it now."

This is a story about me picking up a book that was laying on a hallstand, reading it, reading it again, going back to it and referring to it, and eventually packing it away with the rest of my things when I left that ex-girlfriend. Sure, it's a Canadian book, but when I re-read it now I don't feel any pangs of absence. Nor do I think about that ex-girlfriend, or her parent's house, or her grandmother. I do, however, think about the stories that I tell myself, that I tell other people, that I tell to amuse people, or to scare them, to romance them or intimidate them. Even the posts on this blog labelled 'Opinion' or 'Product Reviews' or even 'Video Clips' are stories. And I guess the reason I'm writing them is to give these stories, which somehow make sense to me, to you. And now, like King says, they're yours. Do with them what you will. Be bored by them. Get angry. Forget them. But don't say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard these stories.

You're hearing them now.

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