Years ago I read Daniel Wallace’s Big Fishafter I was asked to introduce him as the featured writer for Auburn Arts Association’s “Stars Fell on Alabama” series. I was still teaching back then, and did very little reading for pleasure because I read so much for my job. But I have good memories of taking the time to immerse myself in Wallace’s delightful novel. This week I saw a musical version of Big Fishat Auburn’s Telfair Peet Theatre.
One of the things that madeBig Fishperfect for Auburn University’s theatre department to choose as part of its season commemorating the state’s bicentennial is that it includes a scene set at Auburn University. One of the things that made it a perfect choice for me to go see is that it is about the importance of storytelling and the imagination.
Southerners are known – or we once were – for our ability to tell stories and our love of listening to them. And we’ve never minded exaggerating a bit to make a story better. We retell our stories until, sometimes, they become mythic in nature – just like the parables, allegories, and moral tales most civilizations repeat to ensure their survival. Perhaps that’s why I so appreciate Daniel Wallace’s observation that “a storyteller makes up things to help other people; a liar makes up things to help himself.”
Some of my own best memories of growing up in Jernigan revolve around sitting on the front steps at night and listening to Daddy, Mama, and their friends share observations and spin tales, mostly about themselves, friends, and neighbors. Often the stories were cautionary tales for the careful listener. Over and over I heard about when Ruben fell in an old well and broke his back, when Mr. Ernie was an election official and threw away the ballots that didn’t vote the way he wanted, and when somebody who lived down the road drank bad whiskey and went blind. I grew up careful about old wells, suspicious of election officials, and adamant about not drinking bad whiskey.
Daniel Wallace, born in Birmingham, now lives in North Carolina, but he’s still one of Alabama’s treasures. And those creative and talented students, faculty, staff, and community members who brought Wallace’s story to life in Auburn are also valuable to our state and country. Long live the arts!
Marian Carcache welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.