Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stories (and love) make the world go 'round

Just in!--one of my favorite books of the year. The book is The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall. The premise of this remarkable book is that stories are an essential element of human life. A part of our existence that is on some ways so obvious—hidden in plain sight, if you will—that it has been completely overlooked by science and psychology.

Think about it for a minute. We spend our lives immersed in stories. They are read to us and we act them out when we are young, and we read them, listen to them (song lyrics, anyone?), watch them, and tell them constantly. Why do we do this? What does this do to us and for us?

There’s a trove of fascinating stuff in this book--like studies that show that people who read more fiction are more empathetic; that children the world over act out the same kinds of stories, but boys’ stories and girls’ stories are almost always different. The good news is that Jonathan Gottschall (a young scholar from Washington and Jefferson College) is a great storyteller himself. Grab a copy of The Storytelling Animal and get ready to be enlightened, entertained, and amazed. --Tom Campbell

“Man—let me offer you a definition—is the storytelling animal. Wherever he goes he wants to leave behind not a chaotic wake, not an empty space, but the comforting marker buoys and trail signs of stories. He has to keep on making them up. As long as there’s a story, it’s all right. Even in his last moments, it’s said, in the split second of a fatal fall—or when he’s about to drown—he sees, passing rapidly before him, the story of his whole life.”

--Graham Swift, Waterland

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