Another Review at MyShelf.Com

The Storytelling Animal
How Stories Make Us Human
Jonathan Gottschall

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
April 10, 2012 / ISBN 978-0547391403
Non-Fiction: Books and Reading

Reviewed by Beth McKenzie

I read this book during our community theater presentation of "Faith County." This is no reflection on the cast or playwright; I was quietly occupying myself until the end of each act when my services as stagehand would be called upon. Between rehearsals and the performances I had several hours that I dedicated to introspection and reflection of the process, value and need for creating and telling stories.

The thing you would most expect from a discussion about storytelling is stories that demonstrate the points presented. The author walks us through dreams, children's games, operas, novels, plays, movies, sitcoms, live action role-playing, holodecks and MMORPGs with stories about his daughters, urban legends, historical insights, classic literature and fantasy. For me he answers the question, "Why are vile, gory, disgusting topics so popular?" with a logical answer: because we lead boring lives in comparison. Traditionally storytelling fills a societal training role guarding against the day when the worst happens. You already know how to brush your teeth and drive the car. What are you going to do when the great flood comes or a maniac with a knife breaks into your shower? I know I lock my door!

While the methods and perspectives of storytelling change (this is the first book read on my Kindle Fire), the stories and our need for them does not; and the more familiar the story is the more well received it will be. Sitting backstage listening to the audience laugh at "Faith County" I can understand this. If you have ever lived somewhere like rural Jersey County, Illinois; Bonneville County, Idaho; or Carroll County, Georgia; the antics at the Faith County Fair are funny because they are as familiar to us as they were to our parents and will be for generations to come. If you have ever listened to original wedding vows or seen an ugly bridesmaid's dress you will understand too.

Reviewed 2012