Laurie Stone: Memory Is The Enemy Of Story

Why do you want to write?

Because one way or another, you want to share your experience and your feelings about your experience, whether through fiction or memoir. You want to tell your story.

And that’s your enemy. Memory, says author Laurie Stone, is the enemy of story.

On Thursday, November 3, Laurie will come to the Women At Woodstock Writers Retreat, share lunch with us, and then discuss this enemy in a most illuminating talk, “Memory is the Enemy of Story.” The gist: nothing is intrinsically interesting or uninteresting. The story is not about what happened, it is about what the narrator makes of what happened. Laurie will talk about layering narrative in two time frames. The narrator describes an action. The narrator conveys to the reader how the narrator felt in the moment of the event–always in the past, whether five minutes ago or ten years ago–and the narrator ALSO weighs in to the reader what the narrator makes of the event NOW. There are two time frames in play in any chunk of narrative. That is what storytelling is. The narrator is in love with something in the story, and must be in love at least with the excitement of telling the story. The reader does not care if something really happened. The reader wants to enter the story as if the story is about the reader. How do we create the conditions for this?

Laurie’s newest book, My Life as an Animal, Stories, (Triquarterly Books) will be available for purchase and signing at Women At Woodstock. Better yet, pre-order your book on and bring it with you. The cost is $17.95 and the publication date is October 15.

You can also attend a reading and launch of the book at the Hudson Opera House on Warren Street in Hudson, New York at 5 pm on Saturday, October 22. Books will be sold and signed there too. There will be light refreshment.

Here is an excerpt from My Life as an Animal, Stories (“I Like Talking to You”):

Richard and I stopped at a Starbucks. Most of the seats were occupied by wedding planners and chubby, sad-eyed brides-to-be. We found a table and I said, “I once sat next to Shari Lewis on a plane.” I could see myself in the window seat and Shari to my left, her hair a nimbus of curls. She did not look much older than when, as a child, I had watched her on TV with her sock puppet, Lamb Chop. Even then I had found it disturbing to name an animal after a cut of its own meat. Richard said, “Suzanne sat next to Shari Lewis on a plane. They had a long conversation.” Suzanne and Richard were married when Richard and I met. I said, “Do you think I stole her memory?” I could see Shari’s foundation makeup caking in little creases around her eyes. I said, “Is it possible we both sat next to Shari Lewis on a plane?” He said, “No.”

Later, at a bistro, he said, “I’m a moody person.” He was reading a book about Byron, and he thought he shared something of the club-footed poet’s malcontent. I said, “Okay,” meaning, Yes, you are! He was in mourning, but you would not know it to look at him. It was British mourning, no tears and lamentation. He said, “I can’t sit around waiting for grief to come, if it ever will. Maybe I should read a book about bereavement, Death for Dummies, or I could check out Barnes & Noble to see if there’s a kit that could help me miss my parents, like there are kits that teach you to juggle, or learn rock guitar, or throw a horoscope.” I said, “You throw pots, not horoscopes.” He ordered a glass of wine, saying, “I need to lift my spirits.” I did not say the thing I was thinking about using wine to lift your spirits, and while I was sitting there I thought about the benefits of silence. There is something about language that hurts the thing it describes. After a while of swallowing my feelings, I worried I was turning English, which felt vaguely anti-Semitic and made me miss my own dead parents.



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