Jesse's Reviews > Storyteller

Storyteller by Leslie Marmon Silko
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Nov 07, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2009

"...passed down from an entire culture/ by word of mouth/ an entire history/ an entire vision of the world/ which depended on memory/ and retelling by subsequent generations"

In and of itself, Storyteller is most certainly a beautiful piece of work. With a prose style as spare as the arid New Mexico desert landscapes glimpsed throughout the book, Silko's collection of poetry, short stories, autobiographical musings, letter extracts and photography is a formidable achievement however you chose to look at it. But what makes it even more interesting is by placing it within its larger context, within the Native American storytelling tradition. Inevitably, it brings up a central question: as Silko draws heavily upon the stories and legends of the Laguna tribe (of which she is a member), how much individual authorial credit can or should be extended to Silko? And, by committing what has always been spoken into the static written word, is Silko actually impeding on the spontaneity and improvisation that has always been an integral, perhaps even essential, element of these stories?

This underlying tension, I think, start to get at what makes this collection so wonderful. For Silko's intention seems far from an attempt to make a definitive statement or record—instead, it merely serves as a self-consciously singular contribution to an overarching collective tradition. In Woman, Native, Other Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism, which cites Storyteller multiple times and is what inspired me to search it out, Trinh T. Minh-ha writes "each story is at once a fragment and a whole; a whole within a whole," and though she's referring to the oral storytelling tradition in general, she could very well be characterizing Storyteller specifically, as it not only describes how the volume functions within the storytelling tradition at large, but also how each individual piece performs within the overall collection. Subtly circling around consistent themes (if it can even be defined as that—it's more like a constant reiteration of an unfluctuating mindset or way of life or perhaps even way of being), each individual piece stands alone, but only achieves full texture and resonance when placed next to and within all the others. Like focusing on one facet of a diamond, never realizing that what makes a diamond brilliant is all the individual facets combining into a single, shimmering whole...
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Reading Progress

November 7, 2009 – Shelved
Started Reading
November 26, 2009 – Finished Reading
November 28, 2009 – Shelved as: read-in-2009

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