May 7, 2013

Jonathan Gottschall: 'No place like home'

PLATTSBURGH — What is it that truly makes us human?

One of the answers, Jonathan Gottschall believes, is that we tell stories. 

Author of the new book “The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human,” Gottschall grew up in Plattsburgh. 

His mother, Marcia Gottschall, is the interim English as a Second Language program coordinator and English lecturer at SUNY Plattsburgh; his father is Jon Gottschall, a professor of political science.

“It feels very comfortable to be here,” Jonathan said during a recent visit. “From the time I got off the plane in Burlington, there was a sense of homecoming and nostalgia.”


Gottschall now lives in Washington, Pa., with his wife and two young daughters. Since the publication of “The Storytelling Animal” last year, he has traveled nationally and internationally to discuss his ideas. 

He was part of a panel, along with Joyce Carol Oates and other noted authors, at the World Science Festival in New York City, and he has had speaking engagements in Lisbon and Beijing.

But visiting Plattsburgh made him recall childhood memories from Hillcrest and Grace avenues. 

“We got here when I was 3 years old,” he said of Plattsburgh. 

Gottschall went through elementary, middle and high school here. 

His book argues that stories are everywhere in human life — literature, film, television, commercials, sportscasts, comedy, music, history and religion. So, it’s no surprise to hear him use a classic movie quote to describe his own feelings about visiting the place where he grew up. 

“There’s no place like home,” he said.


Of course, Gottschall’s book about the prevalence of story has its own origin story — one that he described during a recent talk in Krinovitz Hall at SUNY Plattsburgh.

He spoke of driving down the road on a beautiful day, alone in the car and listening to music, his spirits buoyant. 

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