Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada

the Complete Review
the complete review - literature

Seduced by Story

Peter Brooks

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Seduced by Story

Title: Seduced by Story
Author: Peter Brooks
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2022
Length: 152 pages
Availability: Seduced by Story - US
Seduced by Story - UK
Seduced by Story - Canada
from: Bookshop.org (US)
directly from: New York Review Books
  • The Use and Abuse of Narrative

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B+ : well-observed; nicely done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
London Rev. of Books . 16/2/2023 Terry Eagleton
New Statesman . 16/12/2022 Alice Robb
The NY Times . 20/10/2022 Jennifer Szalai
TLS . 7/4/2023 Jonathan Taylor

  From the Reviews:
  • "Brooks wants to retain the narrativity thesis while encouraging people to be more alert and analytical about which stories are life-threatening and which are not. He clings to the concept because he can’t see an alternative source of value. (...) Brooks is the latest in a line of critics from Coleridge to I.A. Richards for whom art, given what they see as a sterile political landscape, is an ersatz form of insight and fulfilment. Reading Henry James isn’t likely to put paid to QAnon, but like a good deed in a naughty world it shines a frail light on our unsavoury situation. (...) For a slim volume, Seduced by Story covers an impressive array of topics: oral narrative, the function of character, the role of narration in law, storytelling’s affinity with child’s play, what narrators know and don’t know, those raconteurs who calculate the act of narrating into their stories and those who refuse to be authoritative. In the end, however, there is a touch of desperation about demanding so much of fiction and narrative while acknowledging the ease with which they are abused." - Terry Eagleton, London Review of Books

  • "Brooks’s fear is that we are so over-saturated with story that we have become undiscerning consumers, slipping too willingly into the familiar rhythms of plot, even when scepticism -- of where information is coming from and of who is delivering it -- would be more appropriate. (...) Ultimately, Brooks is less interested in proposing alternatives or in speculating about how we got here (...) than in reminding us that fiction is not reality, and life is not a story, that “telling and living are not the same thing”." - Alice Robb, New Statesman

  • "Brooks sets out to show how stories work, mostly showing us how fiction works -- or doesn’t work (.....) The novels that Brooks prefers are those that teach us how to read them, that open up possibilities instead of trapping us in a shoddy contrivance with heavy-handed manipulation. (...) Seduced by Story turns out not to be the condemnation of narrative that I thought would follow from Brooks’s complaints in its early pages, but rather a potent defense of attentive reading and its real-world applications. Literary criticism, here to save the day !" - Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

  • "For Peter Brooks all receivers of stories should aspire to the playful condition of novel readers. And perhaps his book should be read in the same way -- as both partly true and a brilliant jeu d’esprit. He certainly tells a good story." - Jonathan Taylor, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       As Peter Brooks notes in the opening pages of Seduced by Story, he has long been: "arguing and teaching that narrative is in fact key to our understanding of self and surround", only to find in recent times that practically everything is being made into and comes as story, in a: "kind of narrative takeover of reality". To him: "It was as if a fledgling I had nourished had become a predator devouring reality in the name of story". Everywhere he turns, he sees: "the storification of reality" -- everything presented as a narrative, from the personal -- who we are -- to history to commercial products.
       Brooks continues to believe in the power and necessity of story, but worries about its abuse: presenting everything as (and/or reducing it to) a (usually) neat narrative for easy digestion is not always the best way of considering something, and has drawbacks as well. The case he makes, basically, is for, essentially, critical reading: understanding narrative form and function. As he points out:

     Story is powerful, and for that reason it demands a powerful critical response. We need to dismantle and contest its claims to totalistic explanatory force.
       Seeing the novel as: "the overwhelmingly dominant form of our modernity", he offers well-chosen examples to explain himself. Works by Balzac, James, Proust, and Faulkner are among those repeatedly considered, while Borges' story, 'Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius' also serves as an example; Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train comes in for repeated use as well -- "as whipping girl" (though, as Brooks admits: "there would surely be other examples as well").
       Brooks reminds the reader: "telling and living are not the same thing", and shows that the power of narrative -- which he is certainly convinced of -- is a double-edged sword.
       A final chapter looks specifically at the case of narrative in (American) law, parsing judicial opinions to show how story-telling is used. As the chapter's title -- 'Further Thoughts: Stories in and of the Law' -- perhaps already suggests, it has a bit of a tacked-on feel. It does make Brooks' case again, but isn't as neatly tied into the rest of the book. (Mainly a teacher of literature, Brooks has also taught at Yale Law School.)
       Passionate and knowledgeable about literature -- and the novel, in particular -- Brooks makes his case well in this entertaining and agreeably thought-provoking little volume.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 May 2023

- Return to top of the page -


Seduced by Story: Reviews: Peter Brooks: Other books by Peter Brooks under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       American scholar Peter Brooks was born in 1938.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2023 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links