The Moth, edited by Catherine Burns

The Moth edited by Catherine Burns


For those of you who may not be familiar with the Moth, the intro to the radio show sums it up: “True stories told live without notes.” Told live! So when I first heard about The Moth book, edited by Catherine Cook, I admit I was a bit skeptical. I’m a fan of the Moth’s podcast and radio show, and have even told some stories myself at the Louisville Moth StorySlams. But so much of what I love about Moth stories are the way the tellers tell them, and I wasn’t sure how well these stories would translate to the written word. And furthermore, I wasn’t quite sure what the point of doing so was, when most of these are available on the Moth’s podcast. But since I do love the Moth so much, I decided to put aside my misgivings and try the book. I’m glad I did.

First of all, I loved the preface by Adam Gopnik, the forward by George Dawes Green, and the introduction by Catherine Cook, all of which give different perspectives on the history of the Moth and how Moth stories are shaped. Cook’s introduction also makes it clear that the 50 stories chosen for this book aren’t necessarily the 50 best Moth stories, but rather 50 that were chosen because they would adapt well to the page. These are undeniably great stories, though, and if they lost anything by being transcribed, they also gained something by giving the reader the opportunity to linger over favorite phrases, or re-read particularly surprising lines.

There’s a wide variety of stories in here, truly something for everyone. Some of them are stories from celebrities–I particularly loved Darryl “DMC” McDaniels’ moving story about how a Sarah McLaughlin song saved his life–or people with extraordinary jobs, like astronaut Michael Massino’s story of a harrowing spacewalk–but many of them are from so-called ordinary people with so-called ordinary stories, and those perhaps best represent what I love the most about the Moth. I was moved to tears by Jennifer Hixson’s story about sharing a cigarette and a story with a woman after a fight with her boyfriend, and by Ellie Lee’s story about finally realizing what an important place her father’s grocery store was for their neighborhood. I was moved to hysterical laughter by George Dawes Green’s story about his stubborn mother and their family’s historic plantation. The Moth collects stories from all walks of life, and I would recommend it to fans of the the Moth radio show as well as to any fans of well-told stories.


Imperfect: an Improbable Life by Jim Abbott

Jim AbbottThis is the story a baseball player who was a pitcher in the late ‘80s to the mid ‘90s. His story is unusual because he was born without a right hand. I am not usually a follower of baseball, but this book got my attention because of a friend that I grew up with is missing part of her right arm. Jim, like my friend, had a prosthesis when he was young that had a hook on the end. Both my friend and Jim dealt with kids teasing them by calling them “Captain Hook.” Jim’s father encouraged him to get involved in baseball. Jim discovered that he had a talent for pitching. He developed his talent well enough to play varsity in high school. Then he went on to get a scholarship to the University of Michigan. Before he finished college he made the Olympic team in 1988 for baseball. The Americans won the gold metal that year. Soon he was playing for the California Angels. He didn’t have to start in the minors but was able to start with the major leagues. This is inspiring book of how a man was able to overcome the obstacles he was given and be able to play professional baseball. Another aspect of his notoriety was the letters he would get from children that had handicaps, especially those missing a hand. Parents would bring their kids to see him at baseball games. He answered the letters and met with the children. He would tell them to not let their handicaps stop them from pursuing their dreams. I highly recommend it.