Magazine article American Libraries

The Biggest Front Porch: The Medium Changes the Way We Tell Our Stories

Magazine article American Libraries

The Biggest Front Porch: The Medium Changes the Way We Tell Our Stories

Article excerpt

There are few pleasures in life as rewarding as being in the presence of a great storyteller--an opportunity I get every year when the University of Washington SLIS hosts the Spencer Shaw Lecture, in honor of our beloved emeritus faculty member. This year's treat was Patricia McKissack, whose talk was titled "On the Front Porch of My Mind."

Her love for storytelling started on a (real) front porch where, as a girl, she would sit with family and neighbors, gathering to quilt or shell peas, sharing and passing down stories and along the way building a sense of community and togetherness that's easy to envy.

Style without substance

I was ruminating on this the other day when I was whizzing through the Thursday style section of the NewYork Times. In between the incredibly superficial and largely useless advice (apparently linen for men is in this summer; I'll have to get right on that, as soon as I find someone to follow me around with a hand steamer all day), there were several articles that reflected the times we live in:

* Couples who fight by trading passive-aggressive--or worse--status updates on Facebook (ick);

* A movement among young Jewish professionals to promote (via Twitter, Facebook, and You-Tube) a National Day of Unplugging, encouraging people to turn off all their electronic devices for the Sabbath;

* A feature piece on the former editor of the defunct Jane magazine, who now edits Yahoo's website for women called Shine, which is about to get some competition in the form of a rival site from MSN;

* And, on the back page, the potential drawbacks of texting or chatting while exercising; the distraction can help to pass the time, though leaning forward might diminish the value of the workout.

These made up at least half the section, which demonstrates either that the Times was hard up for copy that week, or that our notion of "lifestyle" is now inextricably digital in nature. …

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