All talk

What would your garrulous grandparents do if, one day, instead of brushing off their same-old scuttlebutt, you showed up with a microphone and hours’ worth of your undivided attention? OK, maybe it would be medically risky to give them such a shock, or to plunge into such a project without adequately preparing yourself. Fortunately, you can take it slowly, with help from a practicing oral historian, California State University, Sacramento, history professor Christopher Castaneda. This Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, as part of the American River Conservancy’s ongoing cultural programming series, Castaneda hosts part one of a two-part workshop on the techniques of the oral-history interview. He’ll tell you how to plan it, how to record it, and how and why to get in the highly effective habit of shutting up and really listening.

At a time when so much of our experience is mediated, by historians, journalists and other pronouncement makers, oral history allows for an authentic, unvarnished sense of what it’s like to be alive in the world. As a practical matter, it’s a great tool for preserving the cultures of families and communities. Yes, there will be the boring bits, the digressions that go nowhere, the unfunny jokes and untruths and underwhelming adventures that you’ve heard about a million times before. But when you begin to pay attention, and to ask the right kinds of questions, you might hear something new: the poignant, the surprising or the riotously funny. The truth you never knew. As the eminent oral historian Studs Terkel once put it, “Oral history is the oldest form of history there is.” Call (530) 621-1224 or send an e-mail to to register.