Doing Good Work Together

In the Thoreau tradition

Plot in fiction helps us overcome the anxiety caused by the loss of the “sacred masterplot” that organizes and explains the world. Our lives are ceaselessly intertwined with narrative, with the stories that we tell or hear told, those that we dream or imagine or would like to tell, all of which are reworked in that story of our own lives that we narrate to ourselves in an episodic, somewhat semiconscious, but virtually uninterrupted monologue. We live immersed in narrative . . .

Reading for the Plot, Peter Brooks

As they are told and retold, stories have the function of wrestling with the ultimately inexplicable chaos of reality around us. They give it form, and in shaping and reshaping the form, they help us gain control over it.

—Interview with Alan Jabbour of the National Folklife Center

The poet C. K. Williams came to Missoula some years ago and spoke of “narrative dysfunction” as a prime part of mental illness in our time. Many of us, he said, lose track of the story of ourselves, the story that tells us who we are supposed to be and how we are supposed to act.

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