Book Review: The Moth – All These Wonders, edited by Catherine Burns

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Rarity and intangible wonder marked the early days of the legendary live storytelling behemoth known as The Moth. Since its foundation in 1997, it has grown from a word of mouth, standing room only event in the US to a global live event phenomenon. It also reaches audiences via radio broadcast and downloadable podcasts, even published collected stories.

The Moth – All These Wonders offers 50 true stories from known names and unknown names. It’s a 20th Anniversary book, and only the second compilation in its history.

Editor Catherine Burns notes these stories, told live, have been lightly edited for print. So in a way, a point is being made about how vital the live element of The Moth is and that is a very fine thing to keep in mind while reading them.

Read one, the next, then the next and you begin realising this stuff is deeply addictive. You cannot stop turning pages. Each clear, personal first person voice holds you mesmerised. Those voices and stories, no matter the wow factor of some, have a greater depth within them –  such as Suzi Ronson’s tale of creating David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust hairstyle; Carl Pillitteri’s first-hand experience of the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster; or former member of hip-hop group Spooks, Chenjerai Kumanyika’s, two encounters with film star Laurence Fishburne.

It’s like collecting one deeply precious, valuable realisation buried in each story, one after another. There’s a plentitude of relatable, shared vulnerability, humanity and self-revelation in each tight, taut, perfectly polished cut diamond of a tale. Audience/reader and speaker/writer are at one in a shared bonding of life moments and experiences pivotal to understanding this life as each individual finds it in their journey. Soul food of the purest form.

How does this remarkable alchemy of art work? Each live event from which the stories in this book were compiled, has a theme and a Director, who helps storytellers develop and discover the actual story buried within the surface structure of the experience they want to share.

A Moth Director is alike to a theatrical dramaturg/literary editor in function. They encourage creative confidence, help the story to find the words it needs, find hidden revelations and give them their proper place.

Be a moth. Flock to the loving flame of the human heart that the stories in this book fuels.

Reviewed by David O’Brien
Twitter: @DavidOBupstART

Rating out of 10:  10

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Release date: May 2017
RRP: $29.99

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Transcendent

This stuff is deeply addictive. You cannot stop turning pages. Each clear, personal first person voice holds you mesmerised. Be a moth. Flock to the loving flame of the human heart that the stories in this book fuels.

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