The Story Is True, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded

The Art and Meaning of Telling Stories

By Bruce Jackson

Subjects: Folklore, Oral History, Literary Theory, General Interest
Hardcover : 9781438490373, 318 pages, October 2022
Paperback : 9781438490366, 318 pages, April 2023

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Table of contents



1. Telling Stories

2. The Fate of Stories

3. The True Story of Why Stephen Spender Quit the Spanish Civil War

4. The Doctor’s Story

5. The Stories People Tell

6. Acting in the Passive; or, Somebody Got Killed but Nobody Killed Anybody

7. The Story of Chuck

8. Storytellers’ Storytellers

9. The Deceptive Anarchy of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men


10. Just the Facts

11. Stories That Don’t Make Sense

12. Murder, Movies, Trials, and Kinds of Talk

13. The Real O.J. Story

14. Words to Kill By

15. Bob Dylan and the Legend of Newport 1965


16. Silver Bullets

17. Loose Ends in Night Moves

18. Making War, Making Movies: The Fog of War

19. Filming Gatsby

20. Fellini’s Memory: Amarcord


21. The Storyteller I Looked for Every Time I Looked for Storytellers

22. Farinata’s Silence

Coda: Donald Trump’s Big Lie


Delves into the meaning of stories, their tellers, and those who experience them.


In The Story Is True, folklorist, filmmaker, and professor of English Bruce Jackson explores the ways we use the stories that become a central part of our public and private lives. Describing and explaining how stories are made and used, Jackson examines how stories narrate and bring meaning to our lives. Jackson writes about his family and friends, acquaintances, and experiences, focusing on more than a dozen personal stories. From oral histories to public stories—such as what happened when Bob Dylan "went electric" at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival—Jackson gets at how the "truth" is constantly shifting depending on the perspective, memory, and social meaning that is ascribed to various events—both real and imaginary. The book is ideal for students and writers of oral history and storytelling but goes beyond those topics to encompass how we interpret and understand the real-life "stories" that we encounter in our daily experience.

This edition includes new sections on how stories are related to historical facts and new chapters on contemporary films (expanding the discussion of visual storytelling) and on conspiracy narratives and Trump's Big Lie. Fresh examples tie together new material with the existing stories.

Bruce Jackson is SUNY Distinguished Professor and the James Agee Professor of American Culture at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. He is the coauthor (with Diane Christian) of Voices from Death Row, Second Edition and author of Ways of the Hand: A Photographer's Memoir and American Chartres: Buffalo's Waterfront Grain Elevators, all published by SUNY Press.


From the Reviews of the First Edition

"The Story Is True is an expertly written narrative by a professional storyteller, which shows its ideas through its structure as much as it tells them with words." — Discourse Studies

"Jackson's book is a work every oral historian should read. It shows how stories inform many disciplines." — The Oral History Review

"The writing style is warm, lucid, and informal—at all times humane and accessible … Students will love its verve and informality. It will painlessly show them the importance of words and stories for politics, philosophy, and social interaction. This book could be the sort of introductory classroom text that turns students of narrative into enthusiasts." — The Journal of American Folklore