February 11, 2009
Posted by Anna Utevsky under Writing
| Tags: narrative
Two weeks ago I wrote a post about storytelling and a savory sea urchin. It was a love story—or, rather, my way of relaying a story someone had told me. It was soft, slow and effective. The next day AJ wrote of bread, sex and writing. It was short, funny, and dirty. And effective. This month I’ve been reading edited submissions for the print journal, many of them touching on the same subject matter: relationships, love, sex, writing…
It got me to thinking about the differences between men and women and the ways in which they write—specifically, the efficacy of the ways we write about love and relationships, and if we are truly best when we write close to ourselves. I’ve written stories using a close third-person point of view in which my narrator was close to a man, but I’ve never attempted (or even desired) to write a first-person narrative with a man as my main character. I’m not sure how well that would turn out.
Now, it has occurred to me that as I write more, as I strengthen my “writing muscles,” I will be able to write farther away from myself. But that leaves me with the question: Is that even a goal I desire? Is it understandable, or acceptable, for a woman to write male characters that are not as acute as her female characters (or the reciprocal for male writers)? Am I just playing to the stereotypes, making excuses?
I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the two blog posts I mentioned and how you, as writers, deal with these same issues.
January 28, 2009
The other night someone told me a story- I think it was a love story. There was a plate in front of me and it was composed of three small offerings of sea urchin, which happens to be one of my favorite foods. The first was a salad of tender peeled raw Maine sweet water shrimp nestled against raw uni, all barely dressed with a shiso and delicate leaves of micro-shiso resting atop. Then the shrimp’s heads were fried and crackling in a dish to the left. Texturally it was a revelation, the heads crunching against the rich urchin eggs that also tempered the sweetness of the shrimp. It was an introduction to the main character, the urchin, beginning to expose his depth.
To the right was a hollowed out eggshell filled with layers of soft scrambled eggs, more uni, and at the top caviar. Sinking a demitasse spoon deep inside what came out was salty, rich, warm but not too hot so as to not overcook the eggs. And the eggs kept changing as I ate them. The urchin and scrambled eggs deep inside the shell continued to cook from the residual heat of the upper layers so every bite was different- the same ingredients unraveling their possibilities as the minutes passed- the way sentences can hint at deeper layers within narrative.
Lastly in this trio was a light and foamy urchin chowder. The subtle broth just rich enough to support the urchin but at the same time restrained so as to let the urchin be the main character in this chapter. I could not get enough.
This plate was a story albeit without words. Delivered to me the chef then snuck away to let the food speak volumes on their behalf. I was raised in a home where table manners were paramount, and that leaves me to confess that as I ate the scrambled eggs I sent my spoon clattering loudly to the plate below.
We all have five senses and it is rare that in storytelling we have the opportunity to employ all five for our readers. But even as writers it is not solely with words that we convey messages. As I sat down and thought about this post I realized that it is words I use the least to communicate with others. It occurred to me that we perhaps communicate most of all through looks in our eyes, the touch of our hands, the scents we apply to our necks- we’re continually telling stories even in our silences. So as a writer, taking in the story made for me the other night as I sat at the bar, I am consumed by trying to engage the senses of my imagined readers. The love story left me speechless, without words, beyond words, without questions and isn’t that what we are all looking for?