In Storyteller by Silko, why do the pages and stories seem to move around so much? I don't understand the format of the book and could use a more in depth breakdown of the text.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It is true that Silko's formatting and visual style in Storyteller are far from traditional and at first glance, a little strange and confusing.  Negative critics suggest this book tries to hard to be different, but those who seem to understand the author's purpose behind the unique visual presentation of the book praise her ability to display her heritage through such a multifaceted piece of art.

Robert M. Nelson, an English professor at the University of Richmond, describes the book this way:

...Storyteller has been variously described as a collage, a montage, or even more loosely an assemblage, and indeed the contents of the book may seem bafflingly random and eclectic until the work is treated as a storytelling performance in which the storyteller is depending on visual imagery to do most of the cultural work of an oral tradition.

Essentially, Nelson is suggesting that the compilation of the different formatting, genres, and addition of pictures is meant to present a visual representation of an even more artistic oral tradition.  Some have even gone so far as to suggest that the book is a personal "weaving" of thought, sentiment, emotion, and culture, through as many outlets as possible within the print format.  (Another author who has made use of this technique is Saul Williams, who is mainly considered a poet, but also writes prose and song lyrics, and includes illustrations and word pictures in his books, which are also unusually shaped.)

My best advice for reading Storyteller (and other books like it) is to keep an open mind and approach each story, poem, or photograph with the same whimsy that was used in its creation.  Keep in mind that one of the most prominent themes of the work is the art of storytelling, and how very versatile this tradition is and can be.

Embrace the artistic nature of the book.  Though it is not necessarily what most students are used to doing when approaching a text, I encourage you to read through this without worrying about summarizing each "chapter" or different story.  Rather, it would be easier to look at the text completely, and attempt to identify recurring images and themes.  Perhaps jot some notes down as you read, and try to make sense of them more holistically once you've completed the text.  I also encourage you to discuss this book with others.  Like poetry or visual art, this book is meant to be a bit ambiguous and is certainly better appreciated when discussed with others.

The links below will lead you to published critical commentary as well as information in the Enotes Essential Guide to the book.  If you cannot access all of the information in an Enotes link, it may be that you are required to purchase a premium membership to view more.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial