Thursday, 26 May 2011

Postscript on Arthur Frank’s Letting Stories Breathe

After writing an earlier entry on Arthur Frank’s Letting Stories Breathe, I have now had the following thought. There is a suggestion in the book that narratives can accrue two kinds of truth. There is the familiar idea that stories can tell it as it is. They can be literally true. But there is another kind of truth: a truth in the story which inheres in it merely in virtue of the story being told. (That is not quite right but I hope Frank would forgive this crude summary.)

Now if that is right (that is, if that is what the book says, whether the second claim is actually true in the first sense or not; by its own lights it might be true in the second sense merely by being said!) why assume that a lover of stories would aim, in his account of stories, at the first pedestrian sort of truth? Surely, the kind of truth proper to a story is the one unique to it: the truth in stories. And if that’s the case, then surely the point of the book is not an ‘-ology’ of stories, as I suggested, but a story about stories. And thus that is how one should judge the idea that stories sing reality into being, or whatever. It is a much nicer idea.