The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories

The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories

4.7 4
by Christopher Booker
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

This remarkable and monumental book at last provides a comprehensive answer to the age-old riddle of whether there are only a small number of 'basic stories' in the world. Using a wealth of examples, from ancient myths and folk tales via the plays and novels of great literature to the popular movies and TV soap operas of today, it shows that there are seven

Overview

This remarkable and monumental book at last provides a comprehensive answer to the age-old riddle of whether there are only a small number of 'basic stories' in the world. Using a wealth of examples, from ancient myths and folk tales via the plays and novels of great literature to the popular movies and TV soap operas of today, it shows that there are seven archetypal themes which recur throughout every kind of storytelling. But this is only the prelude to an investigation into how and why we are 'programmed' to imagine stories in these ways, and how they relate to the inmost patterns of human psychology. Drawing on a vast array of examples, from Proust to detective stories, from the Marquis de Sade to E.T., Christopher Booker then leads us through the extraordinary changes in the nature of storytelling over the past 200 years, and why so many stories have 'lost the plot' by losing touch with their underlying archetypal purpose.Booker analyses why evolution has given us the need to tell stories and illustrates how storytelling has provided a uniquely revealing mirror to mankind's psychological development over the past 5000 years.This seminal book opens up in an entirely new way our understanding of the real purpose storytelling plays in our lives, and will be a talking point for years to come.

Editorial Reviews

Denis Dutton
Booker, a British columnist who was founding editor of Private Eye, possesses a remarkable ability to retell stories. His prose is a model of clarity, and his lively enthusiasm for fictions of every description is infectious. He covers Greek and Roman literature, fairy tales, European novels and plays, Arabic and Japanese tales, Native American folk tales, and movies from the silent era on. He is an especially adept guide through the twists and characters of Wagner's operas. His artfully entertaining summaries jogged many warm memories of half-forgotten novels and films.
— The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
In laying out these archetypes, Mr. Booker - a British newspaper columnist and the founding editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye - does a nimble job of collating dozens of stories, using the 34 years he says it took him to write this volume to identify and explicate all sorts of parallels and analogies that might not occur to the casual reader. He shows us how "The Terminator" and its sequel "Judgment Day" adhere to traditional narrative tropes, moving inexorably if violently toward the ideas of rebirth and redemption. And he reminds us how the movie "E.T." embodies classic coming-of-age-story patterns: the boy hero Elliott's encounter with E.T., his alien alter ego, helps him to grow up, forces him to demonstrate leadership, and enables him to bring new harmony to his fragmented family.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Many writing guides have suggested that fiction contains a limited number of basic plots, and Booker offers his version at great length. Furthermore, he claims all of these plots, from "overcoming the monster" to "rebirth," are variations on "the same great basic drama," a Jungian archetypal representation of the development and integration of the mature self. The meticulous detailing of this theory in plot summaries (of everything from Beowulf to Jaws, ancient comedy to modern tragedy, Western culture and Eastern) is an imposing enough task, but Booker is just warming up. In the book's second half, he explains how the psychological shortcomings of modern authors such as Shaw and Joyce led them to reject archetypal truth in favor of writing out their own sentimental and morbid fantasies. The biographical analysis is simplistic, however, and Booker makes numerous errors in the sections on film. The transition from literary criticism to Jungian psychology might be more bearable were it not saddled with an overabundance of academic clich surprising in a writer of Booker's extensive journalistic background (he now contributes to England's Daily Telegraph). Clearly striving for the intellectual respectability of Northrop Frye, he falls far short, and accusing those who disagree with him of suffering from "limited ego-consciousness" doesn't help his case. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Booker, a regular contributor to the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Mail, began work on this massive book over 30 years ago. It is an impressive achievement, in both its vast scope and its readability. Exploring all genres of storytelling-from the Bible and recurring folktales to high and low literature, as well as plays and movies-Booker manages to incorporate the work of such great minds as Dr. Johnson, Jung, and Freud without ever sounding dry. His treatment of the evolution of comedy (a genre notably resistant to explication) since ancient Greek plays is excellent. The third, very interesting chapter offers stories that fail to satisfy our often nebulous sense of good storytelling, showing precisely how and where they fail. Geared more to undergraduates than graduates, this useful overview will prove valuable to writers as well as scholars. Highly recommended for academic libraries, especially those supporting a literature and/or film studies program.-Felicity D. Walsh, Emory Univ., Decatur, GA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780826480378
Publisher:
Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date:
01/09/2006
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
736
Sales rank:
261,647
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.40(d)

Meet the Author

As a noted commentator on the political, social and psychological history of our time, Christopher Booker has in recent years, through his weekly Sunday Telegraph column, become the most conspicuous 'global warming sceptic' in the British press. He has based his view on exhaustive research into the scientific evidence for and against the theory of 'man-made climate change'.

His professional interest in this issue grew out of research for his previous book Scared To Death, co-written with Dr Richard North, a study of the 'scare phenomenon' which has been such a prominent feature of Western life in recent decades. Booker's other recent books have included The Seven Basic Plots, a best-selling analysis of why we tell stories which has established itself as a standard text (also published by Continuum). He has been an author and journalist for nearly 50 years, and was the founding editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >