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The Healing Power of Stories Hardcover – March 1, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
The stories we tell, Taylor (Letters to My Children) contends, can reshape our characters and add meaning to our lives by reminding us that actions have consequences. Fed up with the relativism that he believes has overtaken the academy and popular culture, Taylor exhorts readers to see that all stories are not equal. Better stories, he says, "should be truthful, freeing, gracious, and hopeful." Using snippets of many unarguably fine stories, especially the liberating tale of Huck and Jim, Taylor demonstrates how narratives can touch us as no mere argument can, because they reach all of us-body, heart and mind. Yet Taylor frequently lapses into moralizing argument, proposing, for example, that our "naive and confused" society has debased itself by replacing a value-laden concept of character with psychology's devalued concept of personality. All this polemic raises the question of why Taylor doesn't seem to practice what he preaches. He finally admits that, raised "among the fundamentalists," he has "an instinctive fondness for the categories of good and evil, right and wrong, that verges at times on the moralistic." Perhaps that is why he too often tells us that this and that are so, instead of showing us through the stories that he praises and that we wish for.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Call it narratology, and we flee, squealing in fear. But call it simply story, and we pull our chairs up to listen. This warm, approachable book examines how our personal narratives color our interpretation of the world and our place within it. Taylor has a spiritual, even religious intent: "To name and embrace your stories is to accept your God-given freedom." Stories, he argues, teach us how to live responsibly and how to understand others. They move us from chronos, clock time, to kairos, "time redeemed." Once he has established the importance of narrative, Taylor moves to the real meat of his book: how to heal stories that are broken, plots that are wounded and wounding. What follows might have been just another serving of self-help advice, but instead, Taylor soars, challenging us to examine our stories not only in terms of their personal utility but for evidence of healthy or diseased community relations. Patricia Monaghan
Top customer reviews
Taylor provides a thoughtful rationale for the role of narrative in giving voice to those who are all-too-often voiceless, and meaning to those who see their lives as being a series of fragmented events.
He also explores epistemological questions as he examines the specific type of knowing that narrative knowledge provides; which stands in contrast against, but also complements, fact and statistic-driven knowledge.
His chapter on plotting examines how people search for patterns and order in their lives, and his chapter on characterization moves beyond merely creating a personality or an image, to the use of fully complex, multi-dimensional characters in order to build character in readers of the story.
Taylor includes an excellent chapter on the relationship between story (narrative) and the formulation of different worldviews. This is a particularly important chapter to read, given the tendency of most people to take their worldview for granted.
Throughout the book Taylor illustrates his points with, well, stories of course. There are quite a few well selected references from literature (mostly a few paragraphs at a time -- to illustrate a particular point) as well as stories from his own personal experiences or those of people he knew.
It is an engaging book but it is not lite reading. On the other hand, it is not overly "academic" either. Graduate students who are interested in doing narrative research and who care about principle and moral integrity in their work would do well to begin with this book. Others will benefit from a refreshing point-of-view that it can give them on life, and on how to become actively engaged in making choices in one's life, as opposed to being a mere spectator.
Daniel Taylor explores the ways that STORY has power in our lives. We have our master stories which shape the way we view our world. We have our cultural and community stories. They all are interwoven in the core of our beings.
Somehow, reading this book, I got an image of Daniel Taylor as a gentle little English professor (Me being over 200 pounds, it's not hard for me to picture people diminutively.) I met Dan last month, at my StoryCon meeting and he is a biggg guy. But gentle, very gentle, and soft spoken. Yet his stories and his understanding of story are so powerful. This book should be required reading for anyone who works with story, any psychologist or minister.
I mark up books with wise words. This one must have [drained] the ink out of two or three pens with all the quotable, wise words I triple starred.