It’s not only the stories that matter, but what they are made of: pages that fall from a book with no spine, or the sheets of a newspaper coming apart in the breeze. There’s postcards and letters crossing the airspace above me, and the tales that travel far on the lips of a city. There are stories of mine that I cannot own, and stories of yours that you may lose on the tide.
There’s the stories you made and the memories you lost; there’s the dreams I once had that now seem so real. There’s the journeys we shared that become their own narratives. There is one unfurling on the current, another unsure of itself in the wind. There is one drifting across treetops, and another curving silver on the roads of the city. They are stories unbound and they come from all over. They have mountains to cross and rivers to ford, they have so far to go – and yet not far at all, for they are all here, waiting to be found.
There are some who find and catch these stories and make them into journalism; for others it is history; for still others it is fiction, poetry, film, theatre, dance, music, and so on . . . The boundaries between the expressions of stories grow thin these days, and rightly so, for stories do not choose one way of expression and remain there cocooned in their form.
Anna Krien is a journalist, and the author of Into the Woods. I met her a few months ago, and she seems quite unbound by definitions and genres. She told me that she sees no reason why one cannot be both or several: a journalist, a poet, a writer of fiction. And I felt inspired, for I realised I had been restraining the stories I had, trying to be just a journalist, or just a writer of fiction.
Geraldine Brooks is another who appears unwilling to allow the stories that she meets to be restrained forever in one genre or another. The material she gathered as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East later became her non-fiction work, Nine Parts of Desire. Yet it also made its way into the end of her fictional work, Year of Wonders. In a sense, these stories have taken on many shapes through the one writer and they have had many lives. In Caleb’s Crossing, as with Year of Wonders, her stories are not bound by the limitations of history or by the passing of centuries.
So let the stories come in any way they will, through words or experience, from near or far. Let them be bound only by ethics and not by genre or tradition or habit, so that they may take whichever form of expression they choose.
This post was written in response to the theme of this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival, ‘Stories unbound’.
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