“Do you know why God invented writers? Because he loves a good story. And he doesn’t give a damn about the words. Words are the curtain we’ve hung between him and our true selves. Try not to think about the words. Don’t strain for the perfect sentence. There’s no such thing. Writing is guesswork. Every sentence is an educated guess, the readers’ as much as yours.”
― “Father Amtrak” in J.R. Moehringer’s memoir, The Tender Bar
Moehringer’s memoir of growing up in a Long Island bar, where his uncle worked, is one of my favourite books I’ve read all year, full of palpable characters and pithy truths. But while Father Amtrak is brimming with pieces of wisdom for J.R., he may be wrong about writers. These past weeks at work have shown me that scribes give us more than good stories. The best ones craft the perfect sentences more often than others, spin stories that transcend good yarns. In other words, some people are really good at guessing.
Speaking of powers of prescience, Echo writer Dan Fost, said that the San Francisco Giants would win the 2012 World Series (Does he say this every year?), and what a win for the City by the Bay this past Sunday! Dan happens to be the author of Giants: Past and Present and, if his Twitter photo is any indication, a die-hard fan. For the Giants’ story up until their sixth World Series title win in 2010, Dan’s book is a super read. Sports Illustrated wrote, “Dan Fost’s book captures the whole wild history of this great team. He’s got the triumphs, the heartbreaks…and the orange-clad, beard-wearing freak-flag-flying fans.” We agree; it’s a joyful trifecta of sports, sentences and stellar stories.
I also want to highlight great work from other writers we’re working with. Recently, we’ve also had the pleasure of reading new chapters from Mickey Goodman. Mickey is an Atlanta-based freelance journalist and she can write about anything: social issues, lifestyles, design and travel. Her current Echo project has her researching and writing about pipe molding and beer making, and she makes it interesting and funny. I want to have Mickey by my side at the next cocktail party I attend.
Lastly, earlier in the month, John and I were lucky to spent a few days in Port Hope, Ontario, with Toronto writer Larry Krotz. In between photo-research sessions, we heard about Larry’s latest book, Piecing the Puzzle, which chronicles how a team of researchers, including scientists from Manitoba, identified the global AIDS/HIV epidemic in the 1980s. This groundbreaking international scientific collaboration is an important history, but Larry treats the stories behind a school approaching its sesquicentennial with equal regard. The search for the story is as important as the writing, and Larry will go—and has gone—around the world to find an engrossing narrative.
When we read a book, we are trusting the writer to take us somewhere, hopefully with sensitivity, humour, accuracy, and intelligence. We will have to travel a distance, whether it’s in time and/or place, and the words are the hints that help us make better guesses at what it might feel to be a boarding school student in a small Ontario town, or the euphoria of being a SF Giant fan outside AT&T Park last weekend.
Without skilled word smithing we just wouldn’t have the great stories.
I’ll bookend this post with another perfect quote from Moehringer on stories that gives words their proper due: “Every book worth a damn is about emotions and love and death and pain. It’s about words.”