Sunday, May 23, 2010

Story party

Rhian had a really good idea a couple of months back--she would throw me a 40th birthday party, and insist that people bring, in lieu of gifts, a short anecdote to tell. The party was last night, and the stories were great. And luckily people brought booze, too.

The interesting thing was, only a handful of the people invited were writers, and all but two of them left before the stories got started. Almost everybody was a Narrative Nonprofessional. And the story hour was easily as riveting as a good episode of The Moth or This American Life. We had a guy hanging on for dear life all night on a sheer rock face while standing on one foot. We had an ornithologist lost in Alaska, mistaken for a lesbian, and reeking of gasoline. We had a summer job at a junkyard, a harrowing visit to Palestine, a rock star forgetting all his songs, and a Hungarian epistolary lunatic. Some of these people, you would ordinarily have to twist their arm to get three words out of them--yet, given the opportunity to tell a great story, they had no trouble at all.

I'm not going to make a case here for the universality of narrative, yada yada yada. Maybe I'm only attracted to potential friends who are good entertainment. But I am shocked at how much more interesting everyone is than they think they are.

Of course, it was a special occasion--asked to do this weekly, a lot of people would probably balk. But maybe this is something everyone ought to do every few years--go over somebody's house, get a little drunk, and testify. We recommend you try it.

Photo: Rhian cooked all the food, out of Andrew Sean Greer's guerilla party guide Cooking For The Criminally Insane. You can count on a future favorite-obscure-cookbook post from one of us.

15 comments:

Hope said...

Happy Birthday! Looks/sounds like a great party. And what great fodder for my dream of teaching a Writing for Nonwriters course some day.

Terry Chouinard said...

Where's the "Like" button. I would make that a "Like Very Much/Love" button.

I imbibe with you from afar and share in my solitary some of that universal lubricant and a story of my own. A toast to you John; happy birthday old-timer.

And sign me up for these writing classes you all are talking about. I needs em.

jrlennon said...

Hmm...maybe this writing for nonwriters thing would make a good Colgate conference talk this year.

bigscarygiraffe said...

ooolddd mannn look at my life, I'm a looot like youuu.

Happy Birthday John!

Love,
Me 'n Neil Diamond

owen.lennon said...

YOUNG. That was Neil YOUNG, you...young person!

bigscarygiraffe said...

oh gods. what a faux pas. My penitence will be to sing the entire collected works of Mr. Young without water or guitar pick.

jbhollister said...

happy birthday, handsome sir

jrlennon said...

Thanks all...esp. Andy, yes!, Rhian made everything from that cookbook. It is a classic. And multiple corn breads is a good thing. You should put more than one corn bread in each of your novels, too.

Also, I accidentally posted the Neil Young comment as my son.

bigscarygiraffe said...

Ha! Here I am thinking I got bitch-slapped by some younger punk..

Sung said...

Happy birthday! The big 4-0. Sounds like your party was a lot better than the Lost finale. :)

jrlennon said...

Oh I dunno, I liked it! As a writer, I sympathize what they were up against. Personally, though, I wouldn't've put it in a church...

bigscarygiraffe said...

even with the multifaith stained glass?

jrlennon said...

now that I want one of for my house.

christianbauman said...

Happy birthday John! My 40 is just a few weeks behind you...

jrlennon said...

That's right...we are almost exactly the same age...and were born in the same place, right?