The joy of learning and the sadness of analysis

Neil Gaiman’s one of my favourite writers. I’m also rather in awe of his ability to tell a story and manage an audience. Put him on a stage and let him go – there’s an event, right there. Gaiman’s brilliant with kids and takes their questions seriously even when the adults around them want to groan. (Gaiman’s Edinburgh kids events are usually full of adult fans. I know: I’ve been one of them.)

I saw Gaiman when he was in Edinburgh earlier this year, at The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountain. I really enjoyed the story, Gaiman’s reading, FourPlay’s music and Eddie Campbell’s art. (The marketing annoyed me a little: I wouldn’t call what is essentially a magic lantern show “a revolutionary new concept of synchronised multi-media storytelling“. But there you go.) It was a good show.

As I sat on my uncomfortable perch in the gods at the Usher Hall, trying not to knee the person in front in the head, I was watching the story the images told, picking at the structure of the words, taking in the performance and wondering what I could learn from it. I remember this from film studies. There comes a point when you stop seeing things as they are meant to be seen and start picking them to pieces in your head. Everyone does it, but to me, there’s a different quality to the lazy analysis I do when reading a book normally and the more focussed analysis I’m applying now. I’m beginning to find it difficult to watch spoken word without dissecting the performance, and I can’t read without processing structure at the same time as I consume plot. As a result, I think I’m learning a lot but the intellectual joy of learning doesn’t quite make up for the joy of uncritical consumption.

I suppose I should be pleased that it’s taken this long.

Story telling. Hopefully, understanding how other people do it will help me get better at it. And maybe becoming a better story teller will allow me to immerse myself in stories without constantly picking at their construction at the back of my head.

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