"The Healing Power of Stories: Creating Yourself Through
the Stories of Your Life," by Daniel Taylor (Doubleday, 182 pp.; $22.50, hardcover). Reviewed by John Wilson.

Say "story," and what comes to mind? Bedtime stories, Bible stories: good for children. (Real men--and, increasingly, women--read theology.) Entertainment and art: the movies, John Grisham, Dostoevsky. All are right in their place, even wonderful at times, but not to be confused with real life, the realm of business and politics and science. Thus we relegate story to the periphery of our central concerns.

Daniel Taylor (whose earlier books include "The Myth of Certainty" and "Letters to My Children") wants to change that. He is not out to give us an improving literary pep talk, urging us to eat our spinach and read our minimum daily requirement. No, he claims that story is already at the center of our lives, and if we fail to recognize that, it is precisely because story is so all-pervasive--the water we swim in, the air we breathe. So his book has two purposes: First, to impress on us the role that story plays in organizing experience; it is the fundamental way we make sense of the world. And second, to apply that lesson to our own lives, to our sense of who we are and who we might be: "If we see ourselves as active characters in our own stories, we can exercise our human freedom to choose a present and future for ourselves and for those we love that gives life meaning."

Telling a story is not like transporting a shipment of goods from point a (the teller) to point b (the listener). "There is no story until there is a telling," Taylor writes. Storytelling is an act of discovery--which accounts in part for the effectiveness of narrative therapy. In the process ...

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