I must confess to considerable irritation on this score. When people tell me that “Story” does this or that for us, I always want to throw up my hands and cry, Which story? Haven’t you noticed the astonishing variety of literary productions? Haven’t you noticed that some are brilliant and many are stupid and most are somewhere in between? That some are mean-spirited while others are generous-hearted? And that people don’t agree about which are which? How can anyone who has thought about such matters for five seconds think that you can say anything meaningful about an abstraction as vast and wooly as “Story”?
Christians have been guiltier than most of this tendency, arguing that people love stories because they are responding to the story God is telling through salvation history. Thus Brian Wicker’s 1975 book The Story-Shaped World; which sounds good until you ask which story the world is shaped like. The One Hundred Days of Sodom? The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin? Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? It matters, you know. Now of course, a reasonable person is likely to reply that the gospel is the story Wicker is referring to, which is true. Why not, then, refer to “The Gospel-Shaped World”? Because, I submit, Story is a word to conjure with, as Wicker and Gottschall alike, in their very different ways, know. But it is time to stop conjuring. Me on Just-So Stories in Books and Culture — behind a paywall, though. Sorry.