That’s My Narrative, and I’m Sticking To It

September 18, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

The narrative about A-Rod and the Yankees hasn't changed from the start of the season (NY Daily News)
I wasn’t all that surprised to see the word narrative turn up in the sports pages of the Daily News. You see and hear the word everywhere these days, even in cooking.
For Ms. Dunlop [author of The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook], Hunanese food ''embodies a narrative of place.'' (NY Times)
Every time I hear narrative, I ask myself whether it could be replaced by the simpler term story. Almost always, the answer is yes.
Its hard to pick one narrative. The Palin narrative is she is in a war with the mainstream media. (Jim Pinkerton of The American Conservative on Fox)
I watched [McCain] begin that long narrative about his prison camp . . . (Wall Street Journal editor Dorothy Rabinowitz on Fox)
I'm used to all the faddish terms that come from sports and business. (The bottom line is that we need a new game plan.) Issues, replacing the more prosaic problems, crossed over from psychotherapy, but now everyone uses it, even people not usually given to psychobabble. An e-mail at work informed me that the maintenance department had taken care of the “issue” that had shut down the elevator for two hours. And before the start of football season two years ago, I heard a retired linebacker say on ESPN, “Well, the Jets have right tackle issues this season.”

But how many of these crossover words come to us from semiotics and lit crit? Now, even the right wingers who decry and denounce English professors for their impenetrable language and leftish views freely throw narrative into their commentary.

Articles from US and World Publications and TV and Radio Transcripts containing the word narrative.

My own sense that narrative had fully entered the mainstream came about four years ago. The teenager formerly in residence was in ninth grade, and that season he was watching “The Apprentice.” One evening, he said that two of his friends watched it and discussed the show the next day in school. “But their narrative is often different from Mark Burnett’s narrative.”

I had a sort of "Watch your language, young man" reaction. When I was his age, I would have thought that “The Apprentice” was Donald Trump’s show, not what’s-his-name. I wouldn’t have known the name of the producer of this or any TV show. Nor would I have known that the producer, far more than anyone on screen, was the true force shaping the program. I wouldn’t have had the faintest idea what the producer did. And if I had known, I wouldn’t have thought of it as “creating a narrative.”

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