James AKA the ‘Head Erstwildling Storyteller' is the operations chief at Erstwilder. He is responsible for ensuring that the stockists, customers, staff and the stock are all looked after, you know, just generally making sure that HQ runs smoothly. And yes, he is the lucky fellow bestowed with the privilege of naming and creating stories for each of our new Erstwildlings which, he says, doesn’t really feel like work at all.
"This is a story about a girl who simply loved stories. It did not matter how a story was presented, whether it was written down, acted out, or sung. It did not matter if they were long stories or short stories, stories with happy endings or sad endings. It did not matter if she had heard a story once before, twice before or had never heard it before at all. In fact, the only criteria that the story she read, or saw, or listened to had to meet was that it had to absolutely absorb her, completely captivate her and transport her, at least in her mind, to a whole new world. It did not even matter if she was in that whole other world for 10 seconds, 2 minutes or 2 hours. Any amount of time in another world was preferable to the time spent in this one. And even though she would get upset when a story was over, regardless of whether it was a happy story, a sad story or something in between, she wouldn’t stay upset for long because she knew that there would always be another story."
That’s the first paragraph I wrote of a story I started writing just over a year ago. The story isn’t quite finished because I’m not quite sure how it ends. Not yet. I didn’t have the whole story in my head before I started writing it, rather it came to me in pieces. It still does every now and then.
The story is about a 25-year-old girl who is quite sure of her place in the world, but a lot of the main character is based on me, as well as some friends of mine with a similar level of appreciation for a good story.
The point is, I love stories, and so when the creative team at HQ asked me if I’d like to write a blog for the website, the first idea that came to mind was a list of some of my favourite stories. Of course, list writing is another one of my favourite things.
This isn’t simply a list of novels or stories that are told via the vehicle of the written word, this is a list of some of my best loved stories regardless of the medium. It includes everything from film and television to music and social media. And yes, there are a couple of books on here too.
1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Television) – Joss Wheddon
I used to watch this show religiously in my late teens and early twenties. It was unlike anything else on television at the time of its release, at least as far as I was aware. Behind the pop culture reference laden dialogue and joyfully self-aware characters, was an exceptionally well-crafted, fresh mythology that spoke to a generation. Or at least a significant enough portion of a generation.
2. His Dark Materials (Novels) – Phillip Pullman
You may be aware of this series of books from the recent HBO television adaptation or from the not-so-well received film adaptation of the first book in the series The Northern Lights (changed to The Golden Compass for North American audiences). Whatever you may think of those to adaptations, they have nothing on the original book series which, despite being ostensibly a series for young adults, does not shy away from some big picture subjects and packs a great deal of heart.
3. The Straight Story (Film) – David Lynch
A film doesn’t need to have a huge budget, grandiose set-pieces, or big-name stars to be effective. In fact, sometimes it’s quite the opposite. I’m not going to pretend I don’t enjoy the latest offerings from Quentin Tarantino or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the film I really want to highlight here is a personal favourite because it’s a simple story, effectively told. If you’re unfamiliar with the works of David Lynch, this one isn’t exactly representative of his oeuvre, but it’s a heart-warmer that warrants a watch.
4. Poorly Drawn Lines (Comic) – Reza FarazmandI have a real soft spot for web comics; sometimes all you crave is bite size humour or wisdom or a bit of both, in 3 to 8 simply illustrated panels. This one has handful of recurring animal characters and a unique humour that’s a little bit absurdist, a little bit edgy and, at times, laugh out loud funny. You can find it on Twitter @PDLComics or Instagram @poorlydrawnlines
5. Where the Wild Things Are (Book) – The Maurice Sendak
An all-time classic of children’s literature, with some of my favourite illustrations and the most heart-warmingly simple story of a boy who yearns for adventure. Originally published in 1963, this timeless tale was made into a very good film by Spike Jonze in 2009. That film was adapted into a novel by Dave Eggers the same year. The book even inspires the song Breezeblocks by U.K. alternative group Alt-J. Start with the original though, it is the best.
6. Song for Eva Mae (Song) – Frank Turner
Frank Turner is perhaps my favourite singer-songwriter. He writes simple, self-aware songs that manage to be both personal and universal at the same time. This song, a bonus track from his 2011 release England Keep My Bones was written for the birth of his Goddaughter, Eva Mae Cotter, never fails to give me goose bumps.
7. The Spontaneous Combustion of Jeremy Irons (Short Story) – James Farish-Carradice
As if I was going to finish this list without giving myself another little plug. You can find this story, an oral biography of a man who mysteriously spontaneously combusts told by those who knew him, on my blog www.jdfcarradice.wordpress.com. It isn’t updated nearly as often as it should be these days but there are a handful of scribbles on there if you fancy passing the time.
So that was it. If you love stories as much as I do, I’d love to hear what you think of my list and I’d REALLY love to hear about some of your favourite stories, however they’re packaged.