Medicine Bag

Posted on Posted in journal

Suzette Hagin Elgin quotes Ursula Le Guin:

The proper shape of narrative, she says on page 7, is not the arrow or spear that goes — THOK! — from A to Z. Rather, "I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us."

Of course, I don't think you can ever do away with the linear in some form, even if the structure on the page isn't linear. Because a medicine bag has no imperative, no drive or momentum. The story must unfold for the reader, even if it's also unpacking. But maybe that's what Le Guin means when she talks about "holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us"? That the relationships between people and places and story and reader must unfurl, and a medicine bundle being unrolled is a more apt metaphor than an arrow in flight.

Anyway, I like the way this makes me think. It gives me another connection, another way of viewing fiction and how it can be structured. Which is always good, because sometimes thinking of a story as a linear/branched/fractal narrative isn't wrong exactly, but it doesn't help me organise the story in my head.