THE CALL OF STORIES: Teaching and Moral Imagination by Robert Coles

THE CALL OF STORIES: Teaching and Moral Imagination

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A sweet homage to the restorative power of literature and education, by prolific Pulitzer-Prize-winner Coles (That Red Wheelbarrow, p. 1502; Harvard Diary, p. 1025; etc.). The heart of this book is a series of transcribed recorded conversations with students in Coles' literature courses. Each chapter offers a chorus of critical ""voices"" commenting freely and personally on a particular work of literature. A white, upper-class student, for example, admits to being possessed by Ralph Ellison's great novel of black experience, Invisible Man; another undergrad, inarticulate and with no literary panache, winds up the hero of a Coles seminar on Flannery O'Connor when he punches through to the deep moral truths of her stories precisely because of his humility. For Coles, these intensely personal, idiosyncratic responses represent the magical openendedness and suggestive depth of literature. The book opens and closes with reflections on Coles' at-home learning as a boy, when his parents introduced him to Eliot, Hardy, and Dickens. He also recounts how he discovered the therapeutic value of literature and story in psychiatry, and how he once joined fellow literary doctor William Carlos Williams on a round of ""housecalls""--during which Williams simply listened to his patients gab and later turned their voices into poetry. Coles conveys all of this with typically selfless grace and warmth. Only literary specialists will be disturbed by the book's nostalgic, casual air of literary chat, which at times does seem reductive of great writers and ideas. In sum, however, comforting and gracious.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin