Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Books: The Moth Presents Occasional Magic - True Stories About Defying the Impossible


Dad and I are fans of The Moth Radio Hour, a program where real people tell true stories about themselves in front of a live audience. I think we like it because there's something primal about hearing the experiences of others told in their own voice. Whether it's a daughter saying goodbye to a dying mother, a soldier reunited with a friend from a war zone half a world away, or a couple going through a surrogate pregnancy, the storytelling format taps into basic human emotions that are sometimes lacking in other 21st century fora.

Periodically, The Moth transcribes and collects the most noteworthy stories told on the program into books. I picked up the latest such release, "Occasional Magic," and came away slightly disappointed. While the stories' content was fine and the book was good overall, printed words just can't convey the texture and emotion of a live human being. For instance, Phyllis Marie Bowdwin's wild tale of confronting a street groper in '70s New York City loses a lot when translated to the page - the uproarious laughter of the crowd, the dejection she experiences midway through, the crazed triumph of the final twist. I guess for some things, you just have to be there.

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