Magazine article The Antioch Review

Stories and Journeys. (Editorial)

Magazine article The Antioch Review

Stories and Journeys. (Editorial)

Article excerpt

The impulse to tell stories and undertake journeys is deeply embedded in human history and literature. All one has to do is peruse the volumes published in the Modern Library series (started as the "Little Leather Library") to discover how many of them are about great journeys and stories woven from them. Consider the Odyssey, The Arabian Nights, Don Quixote, Moby Dick, and Walden as the products of that marriage.

Writing in his diary on August 9, 1842, Thoreau observed that "there is much to console the wayward traveler upon the dustiest and dullest road that the path his feet travel is so perfectly typical of human life. Now climbing the highest mountains, now descending into the lowest vales we look up to the heights again." As a lifelong journeyer and seeker, he often used that "traveler" metaphor embedded in his diary entry for that summer day.

Since September 11 a great number of Americans have been trudging through the vales looking for the heights again and have found them in real stories that have emerged from lower Manhattan, in the poetry of sorrow and loss exemplified by Auden's "September 1, 1939." Some even find solace in Moby Dick, which was published a hundred and fifty years this past fall: "There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs--commerce surrounds it with her surf."

This issue was put together in the fall with the ingredients (save two) all on hand before the destruction of the World Trade Center. We begin with an essay by Bruce Jackson about the shape of stories, about their tuning and telling and about the moral lessons they impart. It is the second installment (the first published in 1997) of Jackson's ongoing look at the ways we make sense of our lives through story-telling. Our first section ("Stories") contains pieces of fiction that, as always, speak for themselves. …

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