Esquire Book Of The Week: The Moth: 50 Extraordinary True Stories

The must-read collection of anecdotes from Malcom Gladwell, a prison guard and The West Memphis Three

Everyone has one great story. The story that has been honed and shaped over the years, abridged or expanded, simplified or elaborated; the one that, if it’s late enough, and the company’s right, they’ll dust off for one more retelling. This new volume is a collection of 50 of those zingers from some people you’ve heard of (Malcolm Gladwell, Sebastian Junger) and some you haven’t (a budding comedian, a prison guard) which have been told over the years at The Moth, a cult live storytelling night that began in New York in 1997.

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The book is made up of transcripts of the stories as they were told at the event, and there’s something about the inflections and repetitions of real speech, rather than polished prose, that makes them winningly affecting. AE Hotchner remembers an afternoon bullfighting with Ernest Hemingway, Adam Gopnik recounts his unfortunate misinterpretation of the term “LOL”, while Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary, recalls — hazily — the day he got so drunk he missed his flight on Air Force One and got grassed up by Bono.

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But there are sadder stories, too, much sadder: Kemp Powers talks about the day he shot his best friend in the face when they were both 14, James Braly describes his terminally ill sister’s wedding at her hospice, and Damien Echols recounts the events that led him to be wrongly convicted of murder as one of the West Memphis Three. Really, these are 50 stories of exceptional calibre, the kind that you only hear if the teller is close enough, or brave enough, or drunk enough; and best of all they’re funny/sad/weird/heartbreaking because they’re true. 

The Moth: 50 Extraordinary True Stories (Serpent's Tale) is out now


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