exercises in compound storytelling

Friday, July 18, 2008

back posting again

I've been offline for nearly a month. Not entirely offline (my job makes that difficult), but I haven't posted anything here for exactly a month. In the meantime I got married, got really sick, and got better, mostly.

The wedding was a week-long ordeal, starting on June 26 and finally ending the morning of July 3. I had relatives in town who had never visited New Mexico, so we had to show them as much as possible as quickly as possible; the result was a process not entirely unlike running a small child around before dinner in the hope he'll sleep through the night. We saw galleries, museums, a gay pride event, cathedrals, mansions, chapels, a caldera, fire damage, a mariachi band, a herd of elk, and my (tiny, unfashionable) houses in two towns. There was also a rafting trip and a cookout. Unfortunately somewhere along the way I picked up a nasty infection that penicillin wouldn't touch. I took my last dose of sulfamethoxazole two days ago. One of my ears still has a slightly offended ring in it.

There was no honeymoon: we'd taken all the time off work we could afford to spend with family; we're hoping to take some time away later in the year.

In the meantime I didn't really read any books (Lyle Dorsett's biography of A. W. Tozer being one notable exception), and with the illness I ended up spending time on YouTube and Hulu.com rather than feeding my mind. My neglected copy of Rapture Ready! has been riding around in my messenger bag for weeks. I hope I still consider it review-worthy when I pick it up again.

Finally, I'm at long last cracking Barry Glassner's book The Culture of Fear. This book is a pre-War on Terror view of how Americans are continually afraid of small risks while ignoring large risks. In Glassner's mind the latter are (so far as I can tell) gun violence generally and poverty. This book appears to qualify for holy writ status among folks on the American Left; I'm hopeful that it will live up to its reputation.

So far it definitely qualifies as an example of compound storytelling: it's doesn't just tell a story; it also tells a story about how other people tell a story. Right off the bat (page 3) its discussion of road rage deals with the problem of narrative dwarfing statistical measures in representing risks. Unfortunately Glassner's summary (that the real danger of road rage is really a story about gun ownership rather than traffic congestion, or moral decline, or whatever) suffers from the same problem: it's still a Just So Story rather than a thoughtful (detached) analysis. Do what you will, facts are slippery things.

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