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The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories
The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories
The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories
Audiobook38 hours

The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories

Written by Christopher Booker

Narrated by Liam Gerrard

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

3/5

()

About this audiobook

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 analyzes 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 5,000 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.

LanguageEnglish
PublisherTantor Audio
Release dateMar 5, 2019
ISBN9781541449633
The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories
Author

Christopher Booker

Christopher Booker was a founding editor of Private Eye, to which he regularly contributed, and also wrote a longstanding column for the Sunday Telegraph. His bestselling books include The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, The Real Global Warming Disaster, The Great Deception, The Mad Officials, Scared to Death and The Neophiliacs. Booker died in July 2019.

Reviews for The Seven Basic Plots

Rating: 3.1228070175438596 out of 5 stars
3/5

114 ratings11 reviews

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  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Booker's identification of the principal narrative structures underlying the best examples of stories, novels, plays and films is attractive and, retrospectively, intuitively right. Those seven plots (which he entitles Overcoming the Monster, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Rags to Riches, Comedy, Tragedy and Rebirth) singly or in combination naturally appear to underpin a very large proportion of the narratives Booker approves of. The first part of this mammoth study seems to triumphantly prove his analysis.However, around the middle of this tome he begins to sink into a morass of Freudian and Jungian psychoanalytical argument which obfusticates more than it elucidates. Obviously in love with this approach he then starts to judge all narratives by whether they adher to his masterplans or not. Rather than seeing much fiction of the last two centuries as perhaps reflecting different priorities -- characterisation, realism or experimentation, say -- he prefers to castigate them for not matching his templates, and his rather conservative viewpoint thus somewhat undermines the initial promise of this book.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    "The Seven Basic Plots Why We Tell Stories" by Christopher Booker is, at over 700 pages, overwhelming at times.

    Overall, I see it more as a textbook. It goes into great detail about what he considers the seven basic plots: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth.

    The book itself is divided into four parts with thirty-four chapters. There is a lot of information packed into the pages--analysis of stories, a lot of psychology, a lot of history. It's not really a book to sit down with and read cover to cover, but a book that needs a lot of time to really think about what Booker puts down on the pages. Since the book is required for school, time isn't a luxury I had while reading this book.

    As a writer, I found the first twenty pages the most helpful (parts one and two). The types of plots Booker identifies are dissected in great detail, using well-known works as examples. I have a lot of highlighting and post-it flags in those two sections. There is a lot of helpful information in what Booker says; information that will be useful in my own writing. This is a book I will keep close at hand.

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    A fascinating but infuriating book which requires one to accept the premise that Jungian archetypes form the only satisfying basis for a narrative. This premise is explored through the means of numerous if partial examples from both literary and popular culture. The author's bias and erudition make this an enjoyable read and it is worth persevering to the end, however there are several annoying factual errors in the plot summaries. And Booker's despair with regard to novels and other works from the 18th century onwards, with a few exceptions (Crocodile Dundee is a bizarre and much-quoted example) leave one feeling frustrated.

    A note of caution: Booker seems to believe that the only possible fulfilling relationship is that between a man and a woman, and that other permutations must by their nature lack validity. Which is a bit normative, if you ask me. But it remains a work that anyone who loves writing or reading should take a look at, if only because it provides a guide to many different types of plot and the archetypes that *may* underlie them.

    This is one for fans of narrative closure! ;-)

  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    The premise of this book -- that all stories, from classics to modern movies, follow seven basic plots -- is intriguing. Booker has compiled a lot of examples to illustrate his analysis, and the volume of summarized stories becomes almost overwhelming. What begins as a interesting read becomes tiresome due to an excessive level of detail. I kept yearning for an executive summary. A good book, but I could not finish it. After I found myself skimming whole chapters, I decided to give up. I may come back someday. One unexpected plus -- I have added a number of older books and classics to my reading list after getting hooked by Booker's synopsis of them.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Dennis Dutton, the editor of ALdaily, reviewed or mentioned this excellent work. It is long and time consuming and not, by any means easy.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    This book, which by all accounts has taken Christopher Booker 30 years to write, isn't the first attempt to distil all of storytelling down to a few archetypes. I dare say it won't be the last, either. While it's a fantastically learned, well-read, and at times insightful entry on the subject, it encounters the same problems others like Joseph Campbell have: that that the facts of actual literature tend to sit uneasily with the unifying theory, and that the unifying theory itself tends to rest on an analysis of human psychology which sounds like it might be so much bunk, and a particular world view - moral objectivism - which definitely is. Both Jungian psychoanalysis and moral objectivity are taken as read by Christopher Booker and as such he spends no time justifying them (perhaps understandably - the arguments for and against each would fill this book many times over). Nonetheless, in my view, he's simply wrong about both of them, and it blows a Big Hole in his Big Idea. Booker's Big Idea is this: when you boil them down, there are only seven archetypal stories in all of literature, and further that if you boil those archetypes down, they are in many ways the same story viewed from different perspectives. This is perhaps intuitively understandable: in the broadest sense all stories are a variation of "there once was a problem, and it got resolved" - but the kicker is this: Booker asserts that any story which fails to follow his prescription is - objectively - flawed. Now that sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it. The first observation to make is that this significantly undermines his claim to have found a unifying theory: Suddenly, it's not all literature that follows the archetype, but all *good* literature. As a moral objectivist, that doesn't seem to Booker like much of a concession, but from any other perspective it is: what Booker is saying is that all literature *which he likes* meets one of the seven archetypes. What seemed to be a bold assertion about the nature of literature is instead a simple indictment of Booker's appreciation of it. That seems more plausible, anyway: the point and content of a story, you would think, cannot be straight-jacketed in this way. The fact that popular stories tend to have similarities speaks to our cultural heritage, the common dilemmas of life and death we share, and perhaps to our lack of imagination, not to some cosmic rule of fiction. This has been borne out in more "enlightened" times (literally - since the enlightenment), as Booker notes to his dismay that these similarities have tended to fade. But even without that modern interference, Booker notes that the seven archetypes tend to fragment under the weight of closer analysis - there are "dark inversions" of each, and inversions of various characters. So, the seven become fourteen or more. The second problem is that, as mentioned, the last couple of centuries have seen stories fail more and more to keep to the archetypes. Booker blames this on romanticism, and is required by his theory to claim that these divergent stories are intrinsically flawed. That might not be a problem were these flawed stories not to include almost all the classics of modern literature, except perhaps Lord of the Rings and the Narnia chronicles (both of which, quelle surprise, have a fundamentally Christian, and therefore morally objectivist, subtext). So, you can write off Melville, Nabokov, Balzac, Lawrence, Stoker and Shelley, or write off Booker's theory. For me, it isn't a difficult choice.