Writers on Writing: The Art of the Short Story

By Maurice A. Lee | Go to book overview

Telling Stories about Falling Men

Ivan Wolfers

Realizing that he corrupted probably the only place on earth that could compete with paradise, Rudolf Kippenheim jumps down from the 17th floor of a bank building. A bicycle rack breaks his fall. He has to live the remainder of his life as a fallen man in a wheelchair. Rudolf Kippenheim is the protagonist in my novel Het Zout van de Doze Zee.

All my stories are like that. They are about falling men, and really, I don't know why I write them.

We tell our stories for many different reasons. Maybe, like Scheherazade, to save our lives. Or, like Hollywood scriptwriters, to tempt, please, and sell. We want to convince, to provoke, to surprise, to amuse, and in addition we feel the need to add our views of what happened with us, insignificant human beings, to the big, big collection of versions of the truth. We tell our stories to catch that one moment that moved us and to cage the flow of events in a controllable stream of words.

Desperately, we want to make visible what we think is not perceived and understood fully by others.

By telling stories we make an effort to catch what is escaping us now, to cherish it later. We want to control what cannot be controlled. By doing so, we turn what happens in our lives and has no connection whatsoever into a story with a logical order of events that gives meaning to what we do not understand and that satisfies our autobiographic needs.

Like stammerers, not able to react at the very moment that we are threatened by the intimidating realities of our daily lives, we know in hindsight what we should have said, and we write that down in our stories. What just

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