"What distinguishes the novel from all other forms of prose literature is that it neither comes from oral tradition nor goes into it. The birthplace of the novel is the solitary individual, who is no longer able to express himself by giving examples of his more important concerns, is himself uncounselled, and cannot counsel others." Thus Walter Benjamin again, making sure that no one confuses a novelist with a storyteller. The question I want to investigate is how someone like myself, growing up in a place that had just been settled, and a place, moreover, in which nothing of cultural or historical consequence had ever happened, became a novelist instead of being content to worry over an old woman who had been traded for skunk hides, or a dairy farmer who had given way to despair. Does mere human memory, the soil that nourishes storytelling, still have any use at all? What, in this age when we are all so oversupplied with information, does a given human need to remember, other than, perhaps, the names of his or her spouse (if any) and children?
--Larry McMurtry, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen
Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark,
nursed a hard grievance. It harrowed him
to hear the din of the loud banquet
every day in the hall, the harp being struck
and the clear song of a skilled poet
telling with mastery of man's beginnings.
--Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story.
--William Shakespeare, Hamlet