This is the tale of The Author and the Reader. It happened in just this way.
Not so long ago there was a Reader. He was much loved and revered for his ability to bring words to life. When he held a book and began to read, the timber of his voice enveloped the listener causing the words to be felt more than heard; the inflection in his voice breathed life into each character; the rise and fall in the tone of his voice caused the scene to unfold on the screen of the listeners minds. He spoke words written on the flat page, and the listener was transported into a living, three-dimensional world.
One morning the Reader received a visitor. He introduced himself as The Author. The Reader invited The Author into his home and gave his full attention to The Author. “I have heard that you are a wonderful reader and I have a story that needs to be told,” said The Author. “Please, tell me the story,” the Reader politely replied. The Author said, “Close your eyes and listen with care.” The Reader leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes, opened his mind and listened. Too quickly The Author was done. The Reader considered the synopsis he’d heard and opening his eyes he looked about the empty room. The Author was gone, but the synopsis was powerful and remained in the mind of the Reader.
Many weeks later The Author once again paid a visit to the Reader. Inviting The Author in, the Reader said, “I was intrigued with the synopsis of your story, but you left so quickly I wasn’t able to question you.” “If you’re still intrigued,” replied The Author, “I would like to share with you how the chapters unfold.” “Please,” said the Reader, “I’d like to hear more.” Once again The Author asked the Reader to be seated and close his eyes in order to listen without distraction as each chapter was introduced. As the Reader listened, his curiosity was excited and he had many questions he wanted to ask, but he waited until The Author was silent. Opening his eyes, the Reader was disappointed to find himself once again alone, with no opportunity to ask the questions in his mind and frustrated by no ability to reach out to The Author.
The intriguing synopsis, and thought provoking chapter beginnings began to haunt the Reader. He found himself distracted many times in the day, wanting to know more of the story. Weeks became months before The Author again was at the Reader’s door. Inviting him in, the Reader said, “I am haunted by the snippets of your story, and I do want to hear more, but this time I shall keep my eyes open as you speak.” The Author smiled as he said, “Alright. You may keep your eyes open. It’s nearly ready and I want to hear what you think,” then The Author began to reveal the beginnings, the introduction.
When he had finished, the Reader was silent as he put this piece together with the synopsis and bits of each chapter, realizing the chapters were little more than titles. “This story has power and potential,” the Reader said. I’d like to have you stay a while so I may explore with you where this story may take us.” “I’m so sorry,” replied The Author, “but I’m a very important author and I must be going. May I come back when the book is ready to be opened?” With not a little frustration, the Reader agreed and The Author left.
As the weeks passed, this time the Reader found himself eagerly looking for The Author’s arrival, but it seemed he would not be returning, and eventually even the curiosity within the Reader began to fade, only rising up to tickle his memory in those quiet moments at the end of the day. When he was nearly free of the questions birthed by The Author, again the Reader answered his door to find the Author standing on the other side. “Hello, and please come in.” The Author smiled, stepped into the home and walked through to the table, where, with great pride he put a book down and declared, “It’s ready! Please sit down and read to me this amazing story.”
Gingerly and with reverence, the Reader opened the book and slowly read the synopsis on the flyleaf to himself. The spark of intrigue was lit. He smiled and turned the page to see the chapters listed. As his eyes took in each one, he felt a tug to read more. Turning to the Introduction he was fully engaged as he began to read aloud. As he read, The Author could be heard murmuring delighted approvals.
Turning to Chapter One, the Reader’s voiced rose as he read the title, “Taking Down the Board”, and then silence as he looked down the page. A clean white sheet of paper was all his eyes could find. Looking up to The Author who leaned forward, eagerly waiting for the Reader to continue, the Reader was confused. Turning several pages in silence, he finally found his voice again with Chapter Two. But again, nothing followed the title. There were no words to be read. Turning the empty pages, the Reader was aware The Author was becoming impatient, but what could he do?
Then, Chapter 10, “The Crowds Push In”, after turning several pages a dark spot towards the bottom of the page caught his eye, and his voice rose to read, “One.” Several pages and chapters later the Reader read yet another title, “The Implosion,” but as before no words had been written. There was nothing to be read, until the last Chapter, “It Begins Here.” Surprised to find the page beneath this title was not empty, the Reader spoke rather than read, with confusion, “I quit.”
Closing the book, he looked up to see the disgusted expression on the face of The Author. “You are a terrible reader. That was awful. I don’t know what all the fuss is all about.” The Reader was about to give a reply, but as he opened his mouth, The Author put up his hand and boomed, “Save your excuses! I don’t want to hear them. You failed.”
Pushing the book across the table, the Reader stood, looked the self-proclaimed author in they eye and said, “There is no story.” Putting up his own hand to silence the protestations of the author, the Reader continued, “You wrote an intriguing synopsis, enticing chapter titles and a gripping introduction. There are even some very impressive names in your acknowledgements, but there is no story. I cannot read what has not been written.”
And that is the tale of what took place in the year 2013. I witnessed the unfolding. There was no story.