By Lawrence Weschler
Counterpoint, $26.00, 306 pages

Notice the subtitle: adventures in “the” narrative.  Not “a” narrative or even just “narrative.”  For author Lawrence Weschler, we can conclude, form matters. His new book cobbles together recent examples of this form, in essays and long journalism on topics ranging from social commentary, cinema studies and travel writing. In each, he brings to voice the role that narrative play: the shaping of expectations, the discovery of evidence for experience, the particular art of sharpening human meaning in search of an unfolding world. For Weschler, the narrative is a device worthy of its own space on the craft table.

While the book offers an expected eclecticism of selection, certain narratives stand out as exemplars of his purpose. I am particularly drawn to the two whole sections, “Some probes into the terrain of human rights” and “Four walkabouts.”  Each contains a group of essays that demonstrate best the writer’s struggle to make sense of a strange place, while not always fully aware of how to do so. That just means that the best narratives are often those that find a way to speak to a reader’s own needs through an author’s gift for self-discovery.

Neil Liss