Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Need for Narrative

This got me thinking about Flint, and all the stories written about the place, by me and many others.
"As far as I could tell, stories may enable us to live, but they also trap us, bring us spectacular pain. In their scramble to make sense of nonsensical things, they distort, codify, blame, aggrandize, restrict, omit, betray, mythologize, you name it. This has always struck me as cause for lament, not celebration."
— "The Red Parts" by Maggie Nelson

4 comments:

  1. Gary, before I respond, let me say my name is Nicholas Palmer, Central HS class of 1982. I finally have broken out of my trap enough to finally buy and read Teardown. I am halfway done and loving it.

    It took decades for me to get past the pain to be able to write. Now I am trapped in this world of my completed novel: 1981 Flint, filled with schizophrenics, punks, and 3 wandering members of a cult spending a summer in Flint. (The barefoot "Sheet People," called that because of their white robes.) It's a strange place to be trapped in. And I am guilty of omission, betrayal, and the rest as well. But I do not lament. I think I wrote something that is dark, transgressive, and breaks all the rules, yet is very publishable. One publisher told me as much in their rejection letter. But the celebrating will have to wait until I get published. But that's going to be difficult when all I have ever published are some articles in tiny leftist new papers many years ago.

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    1. Phil, thanks for the comment. Looking forward to reading about the barefoot sheet people some day.

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  2. I think the problem is that we often bring our own opinions and sentiments to the stories that we hear. In regards to Flint, it's really easy to be disheartened when you compare the present with the past. However, there are other ways that a person can look at things. When I went to MCC (too many years ago), I once walked by another student gazing out the window in the direction of the Mott mansion. When I asked her about it she said, "One day I'm going to have a house like that." I hope that other young people realize that the city they live in, and the streets they walk on, were once populated by very successful people and not just a place where desolation and decay abound.

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    1. Agreed. There has to be some sense of hope for the future, along with an appreciation that things were better once and could be again. Unfortunately, I'm not hearing that from most of the younger Flint residents I've interviewed or met. They are looking to get out.

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Thanks for commenting. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.