Archive for the 'narrative' Category

Aug 15 2005

The Truth about Stories

review by Brian Charles Clark

The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative
by Thomas King
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2005

The Truth about StoriesIn The Truth about Stories, Thomas King, a Native novelist and professor of English at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, explores creation stories, Native history, racism, and the image of the “Indian.” King is upfront with his opinion about narrative: “The truth about stories,” he claims, “is that that’s all we are” (2 and passim). We tell stories, he says, to inform ourselves about where we’re from, where we’re going, and who we are along the way. In this series of essays, originally delivered as the Massey Lectures at the University of Toronto, King is funny, eclectic, smart, searching, straightforward and, I’m convinced, right: we are our stories.

However, readers looking for evidence in support of King’s claim that we narrate our lives will have to look elsewhere. The Truth about Stories is highly subjective and anecdotal, and full of bold claims like this one: “‘You can’t understand the world without telling a story,’ the Anishinabe writer Gerald Vizenor tells us. ‘There isn’t any center to the world but a story’” (32). But one only has to look just outside of literary studies (where narrative theory is weak, bound, as it is, to an antiquated misconception of identity between “plot,” “story,” and “narrative”) to find powerful support for King’s claim. Narrative, Ochs and Capps write in an interdisciplinary review of the literature on the centrality and importance of story, “is born out of experience and gives shape to experience. In this sense, narrative and self are inseparable. Self is here broadly understood to be an unfolding reflective awareness of being-in-the-world, including a sense of one’s past and future…. We come to know ourselves as we use narrative to apprehend experiences and navigate relationships with others” (Annual Review of Anthropology 1996:20-21). Continue Reading »

No responses yet