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The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories
"How did this book gain its celebrity endorsements? Can John Bayley really agree with Christopher Booker's castigation of Chekhov? Does Fay Weldon concur with the exclusion or condemnation of every woman writer in literary history except for Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot? These, alas, may be the most provoking questions which The Seven Basic Plots raises." Carolyne Larrington, The Times Literary Supplement (read the entire Times Literary Supplement review)
Synopses & Reviews
From The Epic of Gilgemesh to Jaws and Schindler's List, Christopher Booker examines in detail the stories that underlie literature and the plots that are basic to story telling through the ages. In this magisterial work he examines the plots of films, opera libretti and the contemporary novel and short story. Underlying the stories he examines are Seven Basic Plots: rags to riches; the quest; voyage and return; the hero as monster; rebirth and so on. Booker shows that the images and stories serve a far deeper and more significant purpose in our lives than we have realised.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
In this arduous undertaking, 34 years in the making, Booker attempts to the tell the story of all stories, from Beowulf to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Referring to every genre, including folktales, films, operas and soap operas, Booker describes seven basic plots, which he contends share basic character types and present different views of the same central preoccupation. He then discusses the shift in the last 200 years to darker and less satisfactory endings, a move he deplores, preferring instead stories such as The Lord of the Rings in which all seven plots are combined in a single narrative. Booker concludes that the propensity to tell stories that conform to the basic plots is essential to human psychology.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In this work, the author proposes his thesis about the nature of storytelling, showing that there are a number of basic themes which continually reappear in the storytelling of mankind, shaping tales of very different kinds and from almost every age and culture.
From The Epic of Gilgemesh to Jaws and Schindler's List, Christopher Booker examines in detail the stories that underlie literature and the plots that are basic to story telling through the ages. In this magisterial work he examines the plots of films, opera libretti and the contemporary novel and short story.Underlying the stories he examines are Seven Basic Plots: rags to riches; the quest; voyage and return; the hero as monster; rebirth and so on. Booker shows that the images and stories serve a far deeper and more significant purpose in our lives than we have realised.In the definition of these basic plots, Booker shows us we are entering a realm in which the recognition of the plots proves only to be the gateway. We are in fact uncovering a kind of hidden universal language: a nucleus of situations and figures which are the very stuff from which stories are made. With Booker's exploration, there is literally no story in the world which cannot be seen in a new light: we have come to the heart of what stories are about and why we tell them.Here, Christopher Booker moves on from some of the themes he outlined in his hugely bestselling book The Neophiliacs. Seven Basic Plots is unquestionably his most important book to date.
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Humanities » Literary Criticism » Literary and Cultural Studies