Stories and The Value of Reader Comfort

Yesterday I had a first appearance and presentation for my latest book, Sam’s Place: Stories, a collection of connected short stories that form an overarching drama similar to a novel.

I enjoy mixed media presentations – they’re works of art in themselves, rather non-linear and, in yesterday’s case, visual. I’d planned to add sound, in the form of music,too, but thought that would’ve been too busy. The primary purpose of such a presentation, of course, is to entertain attendees a bit, and to give them a feel for the collection.

 

KC_pool_hall

 

The collection? It’s a montage of character portrayals set in a rural Alabama town, principally in a pool hall/beer joint unimaginatively named Sam’s Place. Sam Witherspoon is the proprietor, and the stories’ common thread is slowly fructifying change in Sam’s life. And yes, the collection’s based on a few years of my visiting such places in the rural South.

Those attending seemed to like and even relate to the presentation – I kept seeing heads nodding, even mouths moving, wanting to comment, but too polite to interrupt. What I hadn’t expected – and I rehearsed the presentation many times over at home – was the subtler connection of both story and presentation to life in the South – – this occurring  in mid-presentation.

Societies such as my fictional town of Striven, Alabama, naturally fall into strata – first, functional ones based on the population’s interdependence: grocer, farmer, paper mill and its workers, police, mayor, banker, preachers, etc. But then these occupations become separated socially, roughly along classes of work and education, and this is where conflict starts. Where a town might begin in rather egalitarian fashion, soon some are deemed “better” than others, and the “others” are subtly pushed out of contact with the rest. These “others,” then, gravitate to places such as Sam’s. Moral qualities are assigned to these different strata, with Sam’s patrons deemed least morally acceptable. And this sets in motion the conflicts that Sam and his patrons experience in these stories.

Better that I didn’t orchestrate this in the beginning; the stories would have been less story and more didactic statement. But this is the power of story: such conflicts rise from the writer’s subconscious to fiction, and in this way they’re less personally indicting for readers. Readers are allowed to understand the conflicts in a deeper sense, perhaps subconsciously, and they take a fainter, safer step forward in social healing.

 

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

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