#2290 - Tuesday, October 18, 2005 -
Editor: Jerry Katz
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This issue features a review of the book The Way of Story: The
Craft and Soul of Writing, by Cathrine Ann Jones.
The Way of Story: The Craft and Soul of Writing, by
Cathrine Ann Jones.
Cathrine Ann Jones gets to the heart of writing a story. The book's
emphasis is on knowing who you are. Jones tells about her personal experiences
in the world of writing and writers and this contributes a texture of
behind-the-scenes humanness. She has included "everything" she knows,
appreciates, and understands about writing stories. She gives it up.
She reaches way back for the stuff of this book. In writing her
book that way, Jones demonstrates what is required of the writer:
giving it up, putting it all out there, reaching way back. Here is an excerpt
from her book that shows the kind of commitment and the work ethic a writer
"I learned that the University of Texas at Austin had a fine collection of
original manuscripts of such renowned authors as Samuel Beckett, Dylan Thomas,
George Bernard Shaw, and Tennessee Williams, among many others. I also learned
that you could obtain a pass to sit and read them in an authorized room.
Epiphany! I observed that Dylan Thomas would cross out one word twenty times
until finding the one right word. In other words, a great published poem like
Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas, does not arise perfect from the writer's mind, like
Botticelli's Venus from the Sea, but has undergone several drafts first."
There are varied and in-depth story analyses, scores of quotations, and the
practical core of the book is made up of over twenty useful and challenging
exercises. The exercises bring this book into the category of a college
textbook. The exercises begin with basic ones intended to inspire the process of
writing. They progress to consider story outline, then theme, plot,
character, dialogue, conflict. Techniques for imagery, channelling, and personal
myth writing encourage the reader to reach way back and then to put it all
out there, to put it into the story.
At the same time one also has to go with the flow and just be. Jones
"I had not been working in Hollywood long when I was invited to a friend's
house for lunch. Sitting on my right was a Finnish film director, though I did
not know it at the time. We spoke of philosophy, which is my passion and turned
out to be his, also. I shared with him the years I had spent in India studying
the Advaita Vedanta philosophy with a great Sage. Though I rarely speak of this
as it is deeply personal, it seemed natural to do so in this instance. Only at
the end of the luncheon did he reveal that he was a film director. Tavi
went to explain that he had come to Hollywood for one purpose: to find a
screenwriter who was also spiritual.
"A few weeks later, during my annual spiritual retreat in South India, a
young Indian boy on a bicycle rode out to my small, remote village and delivered
a telegram from this same Finnish film director/producer, wanting to hire me to
adapt the Finnish classic novel, Wolfbride, into a screenplay. While meditating
thousands of miles away, I got a job. It was the story of a spiritual woman who
was burned as a witch in the seventeenth century.
"In case you haven't guessed by now, I believe in destiny. One can either
work with it or fight it. Having done both, i would recommend tuning in,
listening, then following the path of least resistance, already there."
The Way of Story is intimate, inspirational, useful, and educational.
~ ~ ~
That's the review. I do want to make an additional comment in
this separate section. To have included it in the above brief review would have
made for a disproportionality in terms of what is normally covered in
a book review.
This book, like almost all others that are published by very small
publishing concerns, lacks an index. How much more valuable this book would be
with an index. I'd be able to see all the mentions of Star Wars in one place.
I'd be able to glance at all the hundred or so names of people mentioned in this
book. I'd become aware of all discussions of character, creativity, and
theme, and every other concept. Under the main heading of "Exercises" I'd be
able to see sub-headings stating in a few words the subject of each exercise and
the pages on which each occurs.
I'd see all the movie titles and where they are noted within the book. In
other words, I'd have a sense of the aboutness of the book that is more like a
rich oil painting compared the water color table of contents that any book
offers. How else would I know at a glance that Dylan Thomas is mentioned on
pages 56 and 166? Or the exact pages where Jung is mentioned or
quoted, and they are several. Where did I see that reference to Jodie
Foster's Clarice and that quotation from Hannibal Lechter? Darn. If there were a
good index I'd know immediately that Clarice appears on page 77, and
I'd gain that information whether I looked up "Foster, Jodie", "Clarice",
"Silence of the Lambs", or "Hannibal Lechter" (not "Lechter, Hannibal"
because who the heck would look under "Lechter"?). How about
something like the following as part of an index:
personal experiences of author
Cool Hand Luke, opening
written as stage directions, 73-74
E.M. Forster, why he stopped writing,
Julie Harris, as lead in author's
Lee Strasburg, taking his class, 145
New Orleans, childhood in, 4
Peter Brook, discussion of India with,
Would that kind of thing be useful? Would it add to the already rich
texture of the book? Does it create interest? Could a good index be a selling
point to individuals, college teachers, and libraries?
My comments about the index, though specific, really apply to all the books
that people are publishing. I don't mean to pick on Cathrine Ann's book. As I
write book reviews from now on, I'm going to be reviewing their indexes. If
there is none I'm going to show how an index would be valuable, if in fact one
Two of my pet peeves are poor or lacking indexes, and fictional works
written by spiritual teachers. Index or no index, if every spiritual teacher --
or anyone with literary ambitions -- reads and practices The Way of Story,
they would likely be more successful.
~ ~ ~
The Way of Story: The Craft and Soul of Writing
Cathrine Ann Jones.