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.