cover image Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative

Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative

Peter Brooks. New York Review Books, $17.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-681376-63-9

Brooks, a comparative literature professor at Yale, provides a bracing and insightful look at the downsides of reducing everything to storytelling in this follow-up to 1984’s Reading for the Plot. While Brooks still believes that “our lives are ceaselessly intertwined with narrative,” he warns thats storytelling has evolved—“Narrative seems to have become accepted as the only form of knowledge and speech that regulates human affairs,” he writes. To support that thesis, Brooks cites examples ranging from the “backstories” on personal care product packaging to the way George W. Bush described his cabinet choices in 2000 as each having “their own story.” To Brooks, the reduction of everything to narrative improperly dismisses other vital forms of “presentation and understanding,” including lyrics and logical arguments. Despite fascinating references to Sherlock Holmes, The Girl on the Train, and Miller beer ads, not all sections are lay-reader friendly, as Brooks lapses into the academic (“I don’t think it is pedantic to urge that a fundamental distinction advanced by the Russian Formalists remains crucial to any serious discussion of narrative: the distinction between fabula and sjuzhet”). However, readers who stay the course will find this is a thoughtful and revelatory analysis of what’s lost when story trumps all. [em](Oct.) [/em]