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The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories (Anglais) Broché – 10 novembre 2005


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Book by Booker Christopher


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149 internautes sur 164 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Such a big book 12 octobre 2005
Par Allen Smalling - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
and so inefficient. Truly I felt that underneath this persnickety and overwrought tome of literary archetypes and movements lies a slimmer, more cogent and helpful book screaming to be let out.

The problem is not really apparent with the book's first half, in which Booker analyzes his seven different kinds of plot themes and finds some wonderful coincidences between, say, our commercial culture and long-banished civilizations. (Dr. No and the Gilgamesh both feature solitary heroes going to the far side of the world to vanquish fearsome and bizarre monsters.)

As far as that goes, the book is useful and will painlessly teach genre studies and even a bit of comparative literature to the eager reader. The problem comes about halfway through the book when Booker, who appears eager to stamp out not only interpretations of books but discussion of books themselves that don't fit his seven-fold structure, condemns so much of modern literature as "romanticism." Well, writers as diverse as Victor Hugo, Ayn Rand and E.T.A. Hoffman have all proudly described themselves as "romantic," and even that unwieldy tent under which to house those disparate authors is more helpful than Booker's cant, who damns the "romantic" canon as distracting literature (and its readers, of course) from its real purpose; i.e., to fit his seven-fold canon.

Not only is the argument circular, it is absurd. It is like saying that candles provide the best and most consistent indoor illumination, because that damned "electricity" isn't really a form of illumination, because . . . well, just because it isn't. In this case what started out to be a purposeful and useful argument turns into a circular begging of the issues and, for a moral Aristotelian, a singularly unsympathetic ways to limn out a canon, based on one man's experience, or should I say OPINIONS?

There are many, many books that have to do with the construction of a novel and its many themes. I think offhand of E.M. Forster's ASPECTS OF THE NOVEL; of course there are tons others. Despite its initial promise, this book, I think, is best left alone unless the reader cares to spend 600-ish pages at first reinforcing, then undermining his/her knowledge of what makes a novel tick.
227 internautes sur 263 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Blame the romantics 24 avril 2005
Par Olly Buxton - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
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.

Olly Buxton
60 internautes sur 69 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A great resource to help you write a bestselling novel or highly successful movie screenplay. 23 septembre 2007
Par Jeff Lippincott - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I liked this book very much. It was kind of longwinded. But since it is a resource book and not a mere how-to on writing, I could overlook how long it was. The more content the better because it gave me more examples and things to think about regarding the subject matter.

The book is broken into four basic parts:

1. The 7 basic plots
2. Stories told well
3. Stories not told well
4. Why people tell stories

And the 7 basic plots are as follows:

1. Overcoming themonster
2. Rags to riches
3. A journey - the quest
4. A journey - the voyage and return
5. Comedies
6. Tragedies
7. Rebirth

This book took 34 years to write (so says the author). But I think it took so long because the author was not motivated to finish it a lot sooner. This is true even though the book is kind of heavy at 728 pages. There are many stories cited throughout the book as examples of what the author discusses. And all the stories cited are referenced in an index at the end of the book.

What I liked the most about the book was how logical and informative it was. I particularly liked the fact that I could look at the Table of Contents and pretty much tell what the book was about. As a result, reading the book was a pleasure. However, I did have to dig a little when it came to Chapter 12. At first glance I thought the author had added another plot and forgotten to tell me about it or to redo the title of the book. I probably would have liked the book better if Chapter 12 had been put someplace else.

When I read this book I also read The Writer's Journey (ISBN: 193290736X) and Story (ISBN: 0060391685). All three books compliment each other and relate to the art/process of writing a bestselling novel, drama, or movie script. I recommend if you read one, then go ahead and read all three.

At the end of this book there is a glossary of terms. I found it to be a little helpful. In fact, I found it to be very helpful when reading The Writer's Journey because that book failed to have a glossary. 5 stars!
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
True or not, a fascinating theory 14 août 2007
Par Charles Whittlesey - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Booker's thesis is not so much that all of storytelling contains a specific number of plots--a theory that can never be proven, be it seven, twelve, fifty, or one hundred--only that certain topics come up again and again throughout the history of literature. Why? is the question his book asks, and Booker's answers are fascinating, based on his readings of the most influentical classics in history.

His answer draws from Jung's theory of archetypes, the supposedly immutable patterns we follow in our path of self-development. (The book draws heavily from Jung, so if you're averse to his theories you probably won't enjoy it.) Basically he's saying that good stories help us accept life's challenges, grow up, face and overcome evil, and carry forward our culture and our values. Why such a theory should be controversial or threatening to some people is beyond me. Narrow? Not really--just a point in view, and one persuasively argued and eloquently written. It's long, yes, and it does have a shocking number of typos, but who cares. Booker has a gift for writing about complex ideas with simplicity, elegance, and power. Give me more writing with lousy proofreading if it's anything like this!

As for myself I think the archetypes are real. I discovered this book after finishing my novel, The Islander, only to discover that my main character's plot fit Booker's Rags to Riches category, while another character's plot fit the Voyage and Return archetype. I was not aware of these patterns while writing the book, but they clearly asserted themselves whether I was conscious of them or not.

Booker is a little hard on Romanticism and harder still on modern or experimental writing, likewise on the predominantly ironic fiction of the twentieth century (a judgment made by Northrop Frye), and sometimes this does give him the air of a moral censor. On the other hand it's refreshing to find someone who thinks there is something very serious at stake going on with our storytelling. Good stories can make us better people, he argues, and bad stories can make us worse, and I agree with him. And much of the fictional pond these days, while interesting and entertaining, is certainly polluted: nothing you would want to raise your children on.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever wondered about the value of fiction in our world. It's not just for fun. It's central to who we are, and what we say in it really matters.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Brilliant and bone-headed 22 mars 2011
Par Steve Schwartz - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I love books that attempt grand syntheses: Aristotle's Poetics, V. I. Propp's Morphology of the Folk-Tale, Frye's Anatomy of Criticism, and the writings of Kenneth Burke, to name just a few. For 30 years, Booker worked on this, and has for the most part achieved something spectacular. Like most great ideas, this starts off with very basic observations and questions -- indeed, questions that seem too obvious to ask: Why do stories have heroes? Why do they portray some sort of conflict? We take such things for granted. Booker, to his credit, does not.

The book is in several large parts. The first talks about the "seven basic plots": Overcoming the Monster; Rags to Riches; Voyage and Return; The Quest; Comedy; Tragedy; Rebirth. The second part talks about the four major archetypal characters (Booker acknowledges a debt to Jung) -- Father, Mother, Animus, Anima -- in their dark and light manifestations and revisits the plots in terms of these interactions. The third part talks about how plots go wrong. The fourth part, the least worthwhile chapter of the book, tries a tour-bus view of millennia of intellectual history with a view to showing inexorable decline.

Just coming up with his 7+4 theoretical framework constitutes a major achievement. As long as works conform to his archetypal plots and characters, he provides brilliant analysis, although here and there I may disagree with this view of certain aspects of a work (his downgrading of Frodo as a character in Lord of the Rings and his underestimation of Spielberg's Close Encounters seem major misreadings, despite a generally wonderful discussion). He's also very sharp on where conforming plots go wrong. The problem comes when he insists on his archetypes as the only successful patterns.

I grant that these patterns are extremely satisfying. I see the basic dramatic movement most easily in comedy. Booker lets me understand why I find Bringing Up Baby and Clueless ultimately more satisfying than Duck Soup, as funny (to me, actually much funnier than the previous two) as the Marx Brothers epic undoubtedly is. All of these plots are metaphors for an unformed or destructive set of circumstances resolving in various ways toward light and wholeness.

The problems with the book come up with stories that don't conform to the archetype. Booker rightly points out a weakening of these patterns in the 17th and especially the early 18th centuries. According to Booker, it's due to mankind's increasing alienation from a sense of cosmic wholeness. Dante's Divina Commedia can't be written now, I think we'd agree. The decline of religious dogma and the rise of scientific or empirical observation have been responsible for this. Booker blames the alienation, which I think a sentimental cop-out. It's hard to write a classic, convincing rags-to-riches story in the age of Trump. The rain falls largely on the just, while the unjust seem to have cosmic umbrellas. Millions of innocents died during the Great Leap Forward. Stalin and Mao died in their sleep. These stories also need to be told. They may be less satisfying, but they show something true, rather than, as Booker tries to argue, sentimentality. Booker refers to the Book of Job as a "good" resolution of the problem of innocent suffering. I find the end of that story incredibly hollow. Sure, Job gets a new family, but what about the old family? Why does God allow Satan to afflict Job? According to Robert Frost in his Masque of Reason, "I did it on a bet," says God, citing the very beginning of the story. Job replies, "I expected more than I could understand, and what I get is almost less than I can understand." Job is brought back into wholeness with the One (Booker uses terms like this), but does this really satisfy anybody? "Gaining the kingdom" doesn't make everything all right and indeed comes with its own set of problems. Stendahl, Proust, Joyce, and Melville don't write their stories solely out of individual psychosis or neurosis, but out of universal experience and sharp observation.

The fourth part of the book is to me little more than sentimental nostalgia for the good old days before the post-lapsarian Fall represented by Romanticism, Realism, and Modernism. As he himself shows, Booker's archetypes persist with wonderful results to the present. But that's not the only way great art can be made. Booker has fallen so in love with his own analysis that he has closed his mind to the possibility of other ways to artistic success.
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