Thursday, October 8, 2009


Yesterday I spent three whole hours all by myself at Borders.

Okay, so not quite by myself. I parked myself at the apex of a small triangle of overstuffed chairs and the three of us were only too happy to politely ignore each other in shared communal silence.

I read a book. A whole book. Well I skimmed some of it, but got into the anecdotes that described how Brenda would often accuse her husband of simply lazing away the evening in his favorite chair in front of the tv and not investing in the family. But once she started changing her prose to "I am so grateful that you work so hard every day for our family and are such a good provider. I can see that all that hard work makes you tired at the end of the day. What do you think about scheduling some family time together in the evening when you feel up to it?" her husband started responding to the praise and actually initiating family time.

And what do you know, but Brenda and her husband were much happier.

I'm guessing the kids were, too, though nobody mentioned them.

I get into those kinds of stories, and yeah it was a book on marriage. How to be a good wife. Or how to be a better wife, since I'd venture to say that I am not half bad right now. Though I guess I am not the one who makes that decision.

But no, I didn't buy that book.

I did, however, buy Donald Miller's (Blue Like Jazz) new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I'd already read the first 30 pages online, because I LOVE this guy's writing that much, and not buying the book, hardback or no, really wasn't even an option for me.

Let me tell you, it was a good decision.

It's cutting into my David Sedaris reading, true, but I will get back to you, David; I will, my word is good. Especially if you keep writing about Helen who lives on the floor above you and curses like a sailor and gives you sewing machines just to spite the guy who lives above her who actually wants a sewing machine. Cause these stories that narrate the human experience keep bringing me back for more.

But back to Donald Miller. Now he's writing all about story, what makes a good story and what doesn't; why a movie in which a man really wants a volvo and finally, right before the credits role, drives off the used car lot with a volvo doesn't actually make for the kind of story that moves you so much.

And Don talks about how he goes to this conference in Hollywood and a famous man lectures about the arc, essence, and structure of story for thirty-six hours, leaving Don and his friend with this:

"A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it is the basic structure of a good story."

And I am still just under the first 60 pages, but already he has mentioned how we can choose to live a good story. That everybody has a story, but they all vary drastically. And that the ultimate theme of our story really is under our control.

And this, already, has brought me hope.

Here's to another 200 pages of more good stuff.


jason said...

Living a good story, is quite honestly, painful. That doesn't make it not worth it or anything, but really, sometimes it's nice to have long periods of boring stories too.

Jess said...

Yes, true. But I'd venture to say living a bad story (to oversimplify it; I don't think a story is usually all bad or all good), in which you choose to want the things that aren't the best for you, results in even more pain than fighting for the best things.

lindsay said...

I love David Sedaris! I didn't know that you liked him. I love his sense of humor.

Jessica Latshaw said...

Yes, I love him, Lindsay; his books are fantastic.

And Jase, you are right: maybe just wanting a volvo is a lot less painful. Maybe I'll go for that story instead:-)

Mom said...

How interesting: I've been thinking about the stories of people's lives lately. And this is what I think: it's important to choose the right story for your life. There are many options. And many opinions from others of what that story should be. For instance, Mom thought that I was retarded; that was her story for me. But I had a different story in mind. We choose the story of our lives.