Sophia Stewart cites Joan Didion’s famous 1979 line from “The White Album” in her recent book review for The Atlantic: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” As such we look for the familiar halmarks of storytelling, writes Stewart: clearly defined heroes and villains, motives, and stakes.
She writes, “There is a growing trend in American culture of what the literary theorist Peter Brooks calls “storification.” Since the turn of the millennium, he argues in his new book, Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative, we’ve relied too heavily on storytelling conventions to understand the world around us, which has resulted in a “narrative takeover of reality” that affects nearly every form of communication—including the way doctors interact with patients, how financial reports are written, and the branding that corporations use to present themselves to consumers. Meanwhile, other modes of expression, interpretation, and comprehension, such as analysis and argument, have fallen to the wayside.”
And these stories are everywhere, but the problem is these narratives are told with “deliberate choices and omissions.” A favorite line from her review: “Pulling from Freudian psychoanalysis, Brooks concludes that telling stories should be a tool we use to understand ourselves better rather than a goal in and of itself.”
Stewart’s story is an interesting analysis of a trend, both for consumers as well as those who create the tales we tell ourselves through various media and advertising.