Tell Us a Story: Authors Reframing Their Tales

By Deborah Jensen 

In the legend, Scheherazade told her king 1,000 stories; today, she would have 1,001 ways to tell them. James Atlas, writing in the New York Times, listens as we move from books to e-books to “no-books,” and he is happy to celebrate the long tradition of “non-text-based” literature (read oral literature or podcast) making a comeback. Other authors arrive in print, and come bearing gifts beyond the book itself.


Atlas cites thriller writer Jeffery Deaver, whose new audio drama for Audible, “The Starling Project,” is narrated by Alfred Molina and features 29 actors in more than 80 speaking roles, created with “state-of-the-art sound and music design.” It’s a dramatic audiobook, and there is no plan for a follow-on text-based book, print or e-book.


Chicago-based writer Shannon Cason shares his memories on a podcast called ”Homemade Stories.” Called a “storyteller’s storyteller” by public radio’s Glynn Washington, Cason includes sound effects in his storytelling…barking dogs, a bouncing basketball…to bring us to his neighborhood and into his tale.


Utilizing print, and transforming the experience of her work by adding an art project/performance art/marketing piece, Miranda July is selling 50 items on her website that were created to be handled as if they fell directly out of the pages of her debut novel, The First Bad Man. There’s bubble-gum-flavored popcorn, a broken vase, a pink hairbrush, a secret in an envelope. In the New York Times, Alexandra Alter said, “By allowing fans and readers to own items that previously existed only in her imagination and on the page, Ms. July is attempting to blur the line between fiction and reality, a boundary that she’s constantly puncturing through her performance art and writing.”


Miranda July told the Times:


“Often, these marketing-type projects are just a millimeter away from my actual work. I like people feeling like they could almost be that person in the story, crossing this line that’s not supposed to be permeable.”