And Joe the Roundabout Tavern regular took his eyes half hopingly, half warily around his bar just in case he saw a mug or two he and his pals could beat up on, and just in case yesterday’s madman had returned to back up. Then he clapped his hands together: So. So who else’s got a story to tell?
This is a paragraph from Alan Duff’s One night out stealing. It caught my eye when I was doing some booky housework along my fiction shelves here at Central Library Tuam, and started me thinking about stories, and bits of stories. We are launching ourselves into New Zealand Book Month here, and celebrating all things EnZed. And I thought to myself (because I have a mind like a mayfly), how much fun would it be to just dart around the shelves, picking up New Zealand books at random, and finding fabulous paragraphs that tell a story all their own.
Now obviously, it’s always nice to read a whole book, and get a complete story; but I reckon sometimes you can tell a story in just a paragraph or two. I’ll show you what I mean – here’s an extract from one of my favourite books here in the Aotearoa New Zealand Collection:
One night in the early 1850s, an odd event took place at a Christchurch ball. JT Peacock, a shipping man, had a partner for a quadrille, but they were without a pair to dance opposite to them. This caused a man named Joseph Longden to stand and stare contemptuously, and after the ball Peacock pulled his nose. Longden was a partner in Canterbury’s first stock and station agency, and could not ignore the affront to his dignity. He brought an action against Peacock, who was fined 2 pounds, but said that he thought the money well spent.
See? Worlds and layers of story, history and back-story, all in just a few sentences. How cool is that?
So here’s my NZ Book Month challenge to you – either pick your fave Kiwi read, or make like a mayfly and cruise the shelves. Find a story that tells itself in just a few lines, and post it here. And let’s see how many New Zealand stories we can tell …