indigozeal (indigozeal) wrote in 50bookchallenge,


When I saw the slim volume Telling Stories the Kiowa Way on my library shelf, relatively brand-new and seemingly never read, I thought it was a shame that it had apparently received so little attention and checked it out for a look-see. It does 1484_tnwhat it says on the tin - Kiowa anthropologist Gus Palmer Jr. relates in his own words and through storytelling experiences from his youth and adulthood the unique nature of Kiowa talecrafting. He examines a frustrating issue with recording Kiowa folklore and stories - Kiowa storytelling is highly dependent on a storyteller's personal style and theatrical affectations that aren't easily duplicable in text. Kiowa tales are also highly dependent on listener interaction - audience members are expected to add their own comments and sidestories throughout the performance, and the communal additions to the tale often lead to the main narrative comfortably meandering about to explore side avenues and doubling back on itself. Details of a given story might change from session to session and with audience additions, and fact is freely blended with mythic truth and symbolism. The personal interaction and interpretation upon which the storytelling depends therefore doesn't easily lend itself to being recorded in bound-gospel-truth "definitive" versions in impersonal, noninteractive text. Yet the old Kiowa storytellers are dying out, so finding a solution to preserving Kiowa literature is becoming a pressing issue.

Palmer's smart in how he approaches telling the audience about Kiowa tales - he records memories of storytelling sessions instead of the stories themselves, so we get a taste of how Kiowa storytelling goes. Like Kiowa tales themselves, though, the thread of the book does double back on itself a good deal and therefore, as an academic work, does seem a bit repetitive at times. I also have to say that Palmer and his friends seemed narrowminded and petty at times: they'll spend copious amounts of page space denouncing, say, an old Kiowa leader who got a bridge named after him (he was part Mexican and therefore an unsuitable candidate) or a Kiowa woman who tried to revive the Sun Dance (she shouldn't have done it because that's not a woman's place and anyway the medicine man she got to preside over the ceremony was Crow). They'll mock and complain, but they won't come up with any productive alternatives - maybe somebody will do something about reviving the Sun Dance someday, we dunno, but at least we stopped a woman from doing it! I'm still glad I read the book, despite its shortcomings, but I'd like to see another scholar take a crack at this area of study.
Tags: anthropology, native american

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