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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Like most people, I love a good story. From books to movies to my dad’s well-worn family tales (most of which I’ve heard dozens of times by now), from songs to poetry to blog posts, I spend a lot of my days steeped in story. I am constantly adding to the narrative of my own story (isn’t that what blogging is for?), trying to make sense of my life so far, trying to figure out how and why I got to where I am.

Jonathan Gottschall’s The Storytelling Animal seeks to explain why, and how, humans are wired for story. He takes readers on a quick tour of various disciplines – psychology, neuroscience, sociology, even medicine – as they relate to story, and examines various storytelling media, from novels to films to role-playing games. (He does seem to prefer fiction to nonfiction, though he’s rather dismissive of religious stories since he’s an atheist. And he tends to lionize the novel as the “highest” form of storytelling. I would have liked to see more emphasis on oral storytelling and live theatre, since those are ancient and powerful forms of story-making.)

Gottschall uses plenty of examples to make his point: sometimes he makes up his own stories, sometimes he pulls from history or current events. I appreciate the tidiness of using stories to make points in a book about story, but many of his examples seemed designed to shock rather than inform. I’m not a fan of shock value for its own sake, so his deliberate attempts to elicit strong reactions put me off a bit.

Gottschall has two young daughters, and I loved the scenes featuring their imaginative play. (He says, in the acknowledgments, that “playing with my girls has taught me as much about story as I’ve ever learned in books.”) He shares anecdotes of other children’s play as well, further making the point that story is intrinsic to humankind. From the time we can listen, we listen to stories, and from a young age, we begin acting out stories, making them up, telling them to other people and ourselves. We identify strongly with fictional characters; we look to stories to help us make sense of our families, our cultures, our nations, our religious beliefs. I got a bit tired of hearing his main point over and over, but I agree: story is vital to our identity as humans.

Though Gottschall’s points are sometimes a bit obvious, this book is a fascinating exploration of story and its importance to the human race.

This post is part of the TLC Book Tour on The Storytelling Animal. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can view the book trailer or visit Gottschall’s website to learn more.

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Because sometimes I realize I’m really, really lucky to live here.

1. The bookshops. Oh my word, people, the bookshops.
2. Related: author readings at bookshops, and at the public library.
3. Hearing the Park Street Church bells ring out hymns as I walk to work across the Common.
4. The Common itself, and the Public Garden – oh how I love these green spaces in the heart of the city.
5. (Mostly) reliable public transport – because no way would I want to drive to work downtown.
6. The North End and its fabulous Italian food.
7. The plethora of historical sites – so fun to visit and revisit.
8. New England autumns – red leaves and golden light.
9. The proximity to New York and the rest of New England.
10. The fact that it’s a place people actually want to visit.
11. Apple picking.
12. Clan chowdah.
13. Meeting people from all over the world.
14. Lots of shopping options.
15. Lots of chances to wear handknits and cute winter clothes.
16. The walkability of central Boston.
17. The dozens of universities. I love living in places that value education – Boston is my third university town.
18. Our little church.
19. The sense of infinite possibility.

What do you love about where you live?

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I’m newly addicted to knitting lovely things, having knitted a scarf (for the lovely Lizzie) and a hat (for Dad) in time for Christmas. Both gifts were received with joy, and then I knitted myself a little choker in a cool diamond stitch last week. And I just joined Ravelry – the site for anyone who is completely obsessed with knitting, i.e. is hungry for free patterns, photos of luscious yarns, and projects to ooh and aah over.

Since I’ve lost one of my beloved fingerless gloves (BOO!), I’m hoping to knit myself some new ones soon. And then I found this thought-provoking set of five questions about knitting on the Culture Making website: apparently it’s the cultural artifact of the week.

The questions are as follows:

1. What does knitting assume about the way the world is?

2. What does knitting assume about the way the world should be?

3. What does knitting make possible?

4. What does knitting make impossible (or at least a lot more difficult)?

5. What new culture is created in response?

I’ll be thinking about these as I start my new gloves. Happy midweek, everyone!

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