cover image The Healing Power of Stories

The Healing Power of Stories

Daniel Taylor. Doubleday Books, $22.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-385-48050-5

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. (Apr.)