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Spring Edition
Volume 98, Number 4

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Metanarrative and Stranger than Fiction

A review of the review

By Paul Tucker '78

Curt Byer's review | Gene Chase's response

Paul Tucker '78

Paul Tucker, founder of the Odd Men Out knows a least a little something about virtually everything. 

Both Curt and Gene are on to something. I don't agree with Curt about his assertion that the screenwriter and director are mere pawns in some cosmic chess game being moved by some invisible hand. How can we praise these obviously talented and insightful filmmakers while simultaneously saying that they didn't have a clue as to what they were doing? Gifted storytellers like the Wachoski brothers and George Lucas study the art and history of storytelling. They dip into the deep well of human storytelling and retell the most successful and satisfying in a new way.  Isn't this what O. Henry did, too? C.S.Lewis? Tolkien? Donaldson? (Insert your favorite author here)? Individuals are then free to find "their" story amidst the stories.

The themes are compelling and Stranger Than Fiction (STF) is a masterpiece of storytelling, which includes it's own glossary (which is itself a gloss explaining the importance of the story) and outline.  Aren't you glad you're not a Golem? The inclusion of this gloss may be part of the reason that some reviewers felt it was Kauffman lite. These reviewers seem to prize the obfuscatorial over the inspirational. I wouldn't go as far as to say that the STF makers understood the Greatest Story Ever Told in the same way that students of Christian story telling do.  But they certainly were aware of the power of a good story and have, with a great sense of humor, explored some of the most important themes of life. The "Christian" themes are there for "Christian Theme Hunters" to find and feel satisfied about finding them while certain that the storyteller was himself oblivious. But for me, I thought Dr. Hilbert's listing of possible story lines and the importance of how to find out what "story" you are in was the tasty morsel. People need a story to attach to their lives to give it meaning. Everyone has a "story" or a "worldview" that they use to make sense of their experiences. I really enjoyed Crystal Downing's (professor of English at Messiah College) review of Waking Ned Devine where I learned about Lyotard and metanarratives. STF bumps all around the Christian metanarrative themes of knowing self sacrifice and then tosses into the mix the meaning of life, meaning of death, apples, ivory tower jumpers into pools, criticism of the quantification of life (counting brush strokes), stunning architectural metaphors, and the agonizing yet heroic struggle of the writer (liver) to get the story (life) right. But little do I know.

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