Editorial: The Art of Storytelling

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We all have our favorite stories to tell. One of my favorites revolves around an attempted mugging in Nairobi. I was walking with a friend in a sketchier part of the city after buying some bottled water. Before I knew what was happening, I felt an arm around my neck. A group of teenage boys had knocked over my friend and were trying to grab her purse, but she’d tied it to her belt. Without thinking, I wriggled out of the kid’s grasp and started swinging my bag of plastic water bottles. They realized this wasn’t going to be an easy mark and started running off.

I like to tell that story because it paints me in a heroic light. What I usually don’t say is that I was completely shaken for weeks after whenever I was out in public. I don’t give the background that muggers in Kenya are sometimes attacked by mobs of by-standers and it wasn’t safe for them to say. I don’t mention that I later returned to Kenya and spent time in slums with boys who’d done their share of pick-pocketing and seen that it was the only way they survived.

My story has everything in that makes it fun to tell but little about what makes a story fun to hear. Good stories connect us to each other. They let us in on the frailties and flaws of either the one doing the telling or the subject of the tale—flaws that we can often recognize in our own lives. They surprise us with unexpected twists and new perspectives and delight us as we empathize with protagonists overcoming obstacles. They teach us and delight us.

Storytelling is not only at the heart of what we do at Paste, it’s at the heart of most everything we cover, from music to books to film to TV to video games. But there are storytellers and there are storytellers. This issue highlights the latter and the way that storytelling has cropped up in unexpected places in pop culture (like singles night!). Bruce Springsteen and Todd Snyder are two of the best storytellers in music, but we also have Luna Lounge proprietor Rob Sacher telling the story of The Strokes’ first concert.

One of the best storytellers I know, Paste books editor and novelist Charles McNair, hopped in a van full of raconteurs led by The Moth’s George Dawes Green as they took their stories across the Southeast: a storyteller telling the story of traveling storytellers. I hope you enjoy his tale.