Stories All the Way Down

G. M. Baker - Author

Terms of the Trade: Past and Present Tense Narratives

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Terms of the Trade

I am puzzled by how imprecise writers sometimes are when they talk about their craft. If any craft should be precise and lucid in the description of what it does, it should be writing. But it’s not. A case in point: the distinction between “present tense” and “past tense” narratives.

On the Value of Close Reading for Writers

The practice of close reading a text is an interesting one. It implies that normal reading is less close. So what is the point of reading a text more closely than normal? Does it yield a better reading experience? Does it provide a window into the soul, or at least the technique of a writer? And did the writer actually compose with as close an attention to detail as the reader brings to the text when they do a close reading? Was every scintilla of meaning and technique that the close reading uncovers placed there by the writer with deliberate and conscious intent, or does the close reading uncover the tacit process of composition? Or is it in fact an imposition on the text, an invention rather than a discovery?

Stories All the Way Down

The name of this blog, Stories All the Way Down, comes from a presentation I gave back in my days in corporate and technical communication. There is a tendency in those fields to debate if storytelling is a relevant or useful tool for business and technical communication. My contention was, and is, that all communication is stories, and that it is stories all the way down. Stories are made up of stories and references to stories. Language itself is made up of stories and references to stories.

The formulation “stories all the way down” is a reference to that well known story whose punchline is “It’s turtles all the way down.” — as in the world stands on the back of a turtle, which stands on the back of another turtle, and so on all the way down.

On the Presumption of Writer Blogs

Hi. I’m a novelist. You’ve never heard of me. Read my blog.

Because that’s the game here, isn’t it. Writers set up blogs because we are told we need a platform. We need followers We need to be someone. It’s the same Catch-22 as looking for your first job. You need experience to get a job. You need a job to get experience. A writer needs readers to get published, and they need to be published to get readers.

Grand Tour 2: All Things Lincoln

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Grand Tour

This post originally appeared on my other blog, Every Page is Page One. The series on our Grand Tour will continue here.

The second day of our Grand Tour, Monday, April 30, 2018, covered only 100 km from Bloomington to Springfield Illinois. The day was really about all things Lincoln.

The route here is simple enough. The old road runs parallel to the Interstate, going through towns rather than around them. Actually, at some point in its history, Route 66 was given a semi-circular bypass around some of the towns, some of which have since expanded around the bypass, so on the map you can see both the old and new bypass routes, one wrapped around the other. This also means that there is a choice of Route 66 routes through these towns, one going through downtown and one on the old bypass route. The landscape is mostly farmland, pleasant but unremarkable. Given the early hour and the fact that the Interstate attracts all the through traffic, the road is quiet.

Tension, texture, and tenderness

This post originally appeared on my other blog, Every Page is Page One.

I’d like to float the notion that the essential ingredients of drama are tension, texture, and tenderness. I’m not advancing this as a robust theory of story or anything like that. Nor am I suggesting that there is some brilliant new insight here. Drama is a complex thing and like any complex thing it can be analyzed a hundred ways with equal validity. But this notion of tension, texture, and tenderness has been bouncing around in my head for a while and I find I like it. So here is the beginning an an exploration of the idea.

Grand Tour 1: Chicago to Bloomington

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Grand Tour

The post was originally published on my other blog Every Page is Page One. The series our our Grand Tour will continue here.

This is the beginning of the diary of the Grand Tour that my wife and I took in the spring of 2018. The tour consisted of doing the whole of Route 66, then following the Pacific Coast Highway north as far as the Columbia Gorge before heading back east through Yellowstone and the Badlands.

The obvious question is, why? What it the point of a road trip? And why Route 66? Route 66 was one of the original transcontinental US highways, running from Chicago to LA. It was decommissioned in 1985 after it was made redundant by, and in some cases buried under, various Interstates. Nothing about this makes it special. It was not the longest transcontinental highway. In fact, it was not strictly transcontinental at all, since it starts in Chicago, not on the Atlantic. It was not one of the major ends-with-zero routes (though its backers tried hard to have it designated Route 60). Really, there isn’t anything special about the route itself. But it has acquired romantic associations. And, really, travel is mostly about romance.

The Very Silly War On Very

This post originally appeared on my other blog, Every Page is Page One

The world is full of silly writing rules. One of the silliest is the very silly war on very.

Baby It’s Scold Outside

This post originally appeared on my other blog, Every Page is Page One in December 2018 when Baby It’s Cold Outside was the literary cause célèbre of the moment. Few, I’m sure, remember or care now, but the things I had to say on he function and responsibility of literary criticism still seem relevant, so I am reproducing it here.

The latest target of the scolding classes is a Baby It’s Cold Outside, a pop song from the 30s that is suddenly being “banned” from radio stations on the grounds that it condones rape, and, specifically, that the line “What’s in this drink?” is a reference to a date rape drug. 

The accusation is absurd. As this article explains, the song is actually about the woman trying to talk herself into staying the night in the face of a list of a social taboos against her doing so, and “What’s in this drink?” is a common trope of the pop culture of its time, used to excuse saying something that violates some social norm. You are blaming your words on the booze, in other words, and the joke is that there is usually nothing in the drink. 

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