The Greatest Story Ever Told

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Holding Down the Fort of Style: Briana mans our booth at the 2008 American Library Association conference.

With their usual effortless wit and flair, the Arbiters who attended the recent American Library Association conference in Philadelphia used their spare time to write a story incorporating every single title on display in Abbeville‘s booth. Some have called the result the most stylish piece of short fiction this side of McSweeney’s, but no matter how many awards it goes on to win or how many anthologies it’s destined to grace, we would like to share it here first with you, our loyal readers. Enjoy.

Tales of the People: An Extraordinary Journey of Rediscovery

Long ago, I rode to China in a VW Bus with a Jew from Uganda and Norman Rockwell . . . 

We sang Nothing But the Blues and played a lot of Chess. We finally arrived at a villa in the style of the immortal Palladio, where we were visited by Goddesses in Art, who handed us a tablet inscribed with Maya Script that instructed us to start a Civil Rights Movement.

We started the movement in the Fine West by planting a Bonsai tree. When our gospel we had to China Revealed, we pondered which of the Seven Trails West to take. I stopped In the Market, which had an aura of The Nixon Years. Hieronymus Bosch was there, practicing Chinese Calligraphy, and he asked us, “Have you seen any Women Artists?”

“No,” I said. “But have you seen Morisot’s progeny on the cover of that Travels with Van Gogh book? What a hottie! I’d go ‘Discover the Connections’ with her any day.”

Bosch exclaimed, “No dude! Haven’t you heard? She’s with John Singer Sargent. They’re out painting Italian Frescoes all the time.”

“Hmm, Frescoes? I much prefer Landscape Painting myself,” I said.

And with that, we continued on our Pacific Legacy, Traveling with the VW Bus & Camper. Every night, the Ugandan and I swapped Pacific War Stories, while Rockwell expounded upon The Faith of America.

Eventually, I left my peers, as The Lure of Gold was too strong, and headed to Persia to discover its Minerals and Gems. Not finding any, I decided to check out The Art and Architecture of Mesopotamia, since I was an aspiring student of Arabic Script.

Walking along a crowded street, I saw The Great Book of French Impressionism drop out of a young man’s bag. Turns out he was a disillusioned Modern Master seeking to learn the ways of 19th and 20th Century Painting. I suggested he give up on painting and take up studying the World History of Photography—if so, the first place to start would be to take some New Visions of The Sistine Chapel. He told me he was more interested in painting Artists’ Self-portraits, but that he practiced Photojournalism for his high school newspaper, where the Editor’s Choice ruled when his work made it into print.

Falling deeper into discussion, we realized we both had an affinity for birds, having both loved Audubon prints as a child. Eventually, it came up that he was a Native American, and he started showing me his portfolio, much of which was obviously copies of Catlin prints found in The National Museum of the American Indian.

Later that night, as visions of Elves and Goblins danced in my head, I awoke with a start—I saw a hand writing Hieroglyphics on the wall! I couldn’t read hieroglyphics, so I closed my eyes and lulled myself back to sleep by dreaming of The Art of Rock (vintage Elvis posters are my favorite!).

The next morning I grew tired of the Middle East, so I called up my buddy Giuseppe Panza—always up for a good adventure—and we took a day trip to Angkor Wat. As the sun rose over that magnificent Khmer monument, Art and Science merged luminously in my mind, and I realized that if I were an artist monograph, I’d be Caravaggio.

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