Our fatal addiction to narrative

Alice Robb in The New Statesman (free registration required):

Forty years ago the literary theorist Peter Brooks made a name for himself by championing a then-unfashionable argument: we understand ourselves through stories. Narrative, he wrote in his landmark 1984 book Reading for the Plot, is “the principal ordering force” by which we make meaning out of our lives.

Brooks did not anticipate how fully the rest of the world – from politicians and doctors to psychologists, marketers and social media users – would come to agree. In his new book, Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative, which he frames as a kind of mea culpa, the now 84-year-old comparative literature professor writes that he “never envisaged nor hoped for the kind of narrative takeover of reality we appear to be witnessing in the early twenty-first century”. Today, he complains, he cannot even look at a box of biscuits or browse deodorant online without encountering tales of ambitious young entrepreneurs and idealistic families seeking preservative-free personal care products.

More here.