To Weave a Narrative by Peter Nadel
 Though I have always been an OED man, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a story quite fallaciously, as “A narrative, true or presumed to be true, relating to important events and celebrated persons of a more or less remote past; a historical relation or anecdote.” I would contest that a story is far more important than this definition would imply, and in fact, that stories are all around us, making up the fabric of not only our history and art, but our day-to-day communication. To communicate is to tell a story. Storytelling, therefore, at least to me, is the most important skill anyone can have. I think some of the power of stories comes from the words, the story’s atomic particles. I first became interested in storytelling a few years ago when I discovered the transformative power of the word. Words, as Tim O’Brien once said, are “far too complicated.” What is magical about them is their storytelling capacity, which is inherent in a word’s existence. A word always has its “other” meaning. This “other” meaning is the sum of its connotation, denotation, and cultural context, the net force of the word, found by multiplying the word’s mass and the intensity with which it is hurled. Here is the art of storytelling, lining up all the “other” meanings of the words so they make their own narratives separate from the most apparent one. In this way words seem to make sense of many things. Consider the story of Odysseus, wily and crafty though he was, he could not escape the powerful and quantifying grasp of the word. The word made him real. Words can be scientific. They turn the unimaginable into little dots on a piece of paper or vibrations against an ear drum. They are at once inestimable and humanly contained, conjured and controlled. They are the heart and soul of storytelling, its be all and end all. A story cannot be a story without its words. I think some of the power of a story comes from the tone of its storyteller. I know a black fellow who, in his wisdom, is a fantastic storyteller, like a sub-Saharan bard, hopping around in front of us as if speaking to a fire in the wind. He has the common practice of yelling and howling the same one syllable until the assembled have his attention. Then he stares us down, piercing our skepticism and tearing away the veil of expectation from our eyes. His tone, from there, reflects the revealing nature of his vision. It is sinusoidal, varying with intensity, moving up and down like a snake. And like the proverbial snake, it enters our consciences and spins a yarn, filling us up with the warm and powerful and heart-clenching hug of temptation. “And he just came out, from nowhere! Just was there, I have no idea how he was next to me… Like one second he was the furthest thing from my mind, and the next he was right fucking there!” His is a tone of surprise; with every story it derives from powerful first syllables and ejaculations of terror. Storytelling is a powerfully rhythmic experience for him. His curls of hair sprouting from his amber arms shake as he does, rocking and rolling to the beat of his own drum, his own tale, his own story. He has us hanging on every syllable. I think some of the power of a story comes from the IMPETUS of creation (the so-called moral, theme, thesis, etc…). The IMPETUS makes the tone and its words matter, giving it purpose, context, and life. It is what makes me cry to Invisible Man and not to The Great Gatsby. The former had purpose beyond itself, transcended mere ink on page. The IMPETUS, I think, can be defined as the agenda to write. Words maybe endless in scope, but are wielded with the hand of IMPETUS. Tone is only significant when consistent (or consistently changing), and IMPETUS steadies it, instilling tone’s humanity with a touch of order. Miles Davis, who (in song) spoke without words, played the trumpet in a way no one wanted to, which would be to say, poorly by any conventional standard. But that is the thing about the IMPETUS. His gave meaning to hours of freeform jazz and meter-less pounding. His IMPETUS, while maybe not the same to everyone nor discernable from pure listening, supplied his music, his art with the power it needed to cross the threshold from sound to the heartbeat of the soul. While a storyteller is the person who may tell a story, it is the IMPETUS that separates the fusion of tone and words into magic from simply sounds and runes, meaning nothing, communicating nothing. There have been many people who tell stories, but not all of them are storytellers. For example, I have spoken of life, but Borges and Picasso and Wallace have told it. They have all instilled their creations with powerful tones, hues of word, and sentimental IMPETUSes, and we, as people, can only thank them for their art, observe it, and revel in its might.