The Tales We Tell: Perspectives on the Short Story

By Barbara Lounsberry; Susan Lohafer et al. | Go to book overview

Breaking Down the Boundaries: "Earth, Air, Water, Mind"

Leslie Marmon Silko

In Storyteller ( 1981), I pay tribute to all of the storytellers. Storytellers are anonymous. They live and they die. They serve the stories. Stories are what are alive and live forever. However, I also like putting, "she said," in my stories to remember that many of the storytellers I have heard were women.

I write in the mornings. By the end of the day I am ready to say, "Oh just push the big nuclear button and get rid of it all." But in the morning I still feel like there is hope. I cannot understand how people can jog or swim or do something really strenuous early in the morning. All of the words, all of the dreams, all of the valuable things that your dreams have created are in your tissue and sweat, and then the jogger jogs them out. In order to be a writer you cannot jar the body or move it around. The closer you can be to the dream state, to waking up, the better, and so nightgowns are good. Actually no clothes at all are it, but I try loose-fitting clothes. They are very important.

Dreams usually just give me a starting-off place. I have never had dreams that were so great that I could just sit down and turn them into stories--ever. But I have had dreams that had great elements, or disturbing elements, that then propelled me to write a story. For example, in 1981 there must have been helicopters going over my house in Tucson and I incorporated them into my dream. But in my dream the helicopters were flying in low. They were those Vietnam-vintage helicopters and the doors were rolled back and they were full of wounded U.S. infantrymen. And I could see in my dream that they were coming from Mexico. And I wondered, why am I dreaming about our fighting in Mexico? This was in 1981, and it was so powerful that in a sense much of what I ended up writing about in Almanac of the Dead was to try to figure how this dream came to me like that. The other dream I had that was important for Almanac was that two heads were floating in the Sochi Milko gardens in this wonderful grocery sack. There was this brightly colored braided plastic shopping bag. And then these two heads that belonged to the American ambassa

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