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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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.
"...It's a tribute to the ease and fluency of his writing that at no point does it seem impenetrable or unwelcoming....full marks to Christopher Booker for recognising that genre fiction (detective stories, horror stories, romances) can be written about in the same breath, as it were, as the great masterpieces of literature." —Adele Geras, Times Educational Supplement (UK), November 2004
"...Scholarly but very readable....His book is a fascinating one...." —Leicester Mercury (UK) November 2004
"...the achievement is monumental and a tribute to the passion with which he [Booker] has pursued his interest in fiction and in story-telling...a compelling read." —Wells Journal (UK) November 2004
"...This is a work of voracious reading and unstoppable enthusiasm" —John Mullan, Evening Standard (UK) November 22, 2004
"Booker`s knowledge and understanding of imaginative literature isunrivalled, his essays on the great authors both illuminating andstimulating. This is a truly important book, an acolade often bestowed andrarely desrved in our modern age" -Dame Beryl Bainbridge, author of Every Man for Himself and winner of the Whitbred Novel Award
'This book...has mind-expanding properties. Not only for anyone interested in literature, but also for those fascinated by wider questions of how human beings organise their societies and explain the outside world to their inmost selves, it is fascinating.'Katherine Sale, Financial Times (UK), October 22, 2004
'This is the most extraordinary, exhilarating book. It always seemed to me that 'the story' was God's way of giving meaning to crude creation. Booker now interprets the mind of God, and analyses not just the novel - which will never to me be quite the same again - but puts the narrative of contemporary human affairs into a new perspective. If it took its author a lifetime to write, one can only feel gratitude that he did it.'Fay Weldon, novelist
'An enormous piece of work, not really one book at all but at least three ...nothing less than the story of all stories. And an extraordinary tale it is ... Booker ranges over vast tracts of literature, drawing together the plots of everything from Beowulf to Bond, from Sophocles to soap opera, from Homer to Homer Simpson, to show the underlying parallels in stories from what appear to be the most disparate sources. If stories are about "what happens next", this book sets out to show that the answer is always "the same things", then to explain why. I found it absolutely fascinating.'Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye
'This is literally an incomparable book, because there is nothing to compare it with. It goes to the heart of man's cultural evolution through the stories we have told since storytelling began. It illuminates our nature, our beliefs and our collective emotions by shining a bright light on them from a completely new angle. Original, profound, fascinating - and on top of it all, a really good read.'Sir Antony Jay, co-author of Yes, Minister
'I have been quite bowled over by Christopher Booker's new book. It is so well planned with an excellent beginning and the contrasts and comparisons throughout are highly entertaining as well as informative and most original - and always extremely readable.'John Bayley
"Christopher Booker has written a book of considerable value. I doubt whether any single volume has ever drawn on a wider range of stories, plays, novels and films than his..." —Sunday Telegraph (UK) November 2004
"No critic [other than Booker] could have a more penetrating sense of why the great and the good in literature have earned their classic status, or a better nose for detecting a comparable excellence in new or unexpected places....Booker has been at work on this deep-flowing masterpiece of critical assessment for 34 years. His readers are the ultimate beneficiaries, and should be grateful to be so." —John Bayley, The Spectator (UK) November 13, 2004
"For me as a fiction writer it was the first time in my life that anybody had explained to me why the hell I do what I do...these are questions I've never heard discussed before...thank God he's told me why I do what I do." —Susan Elderkind, novelist
"fascinating...a book a lot of people will enjoy reading." —Cathal Dallat, poet
"a wonderful undertaking...I am happy that people are once again looking at stories in this way." —Margaret Atwood, novelist
"a vast and heroic piece of work" —Bea Campbell
"an extraordinary tour-de-force" —John Pilger, journalist and author
"...this is the book you should put at the top of your list. It ranks alongside Aristotle's Poetics. Booker's volume is a work of monumental scholarship, research, and deduction" —John Jenkins, Writers' Forum (UK), 11/2/04
"The Seven Basic Plots takes its reader on an epic journey. It is as essential for anyone studying literature at degree level (not least because Booker is such an exemplary writer) as it is for anyone with the slightest interest in the world around them..." —Duncan Wu, Professor of English Language and Literature, Oxford University, Times Higher Education Supplement (UK)
"A work of monumental scholarship, research and dedication....this is a book you should put at the top of your list. It ranks alongside Aristotle's Poetics." Writers' Forum (UK)
Booker compiles a Jungian taxonomy of stories, distilling the entire history of the fictive arts into a handful of flexible but unbreakable archetypes...and then extracts from those seven imaginative drops a single battle royal between Dark and Light." Jessica Winter, Village Voice Education Supplement, January 11, 2005
....”it’s a tribute to the ease and fluency of his writing that at no point does it seem impenetrable or unwelcoming....full marks to Christopher Booker for recognising that genre fiction (detective stories, horror stories, romances) can be written about in the same breath, as it were, as the great masterpieces of world literature.”—Times Literary Supplement (UK) (Times Literary Supplement)
Chosen by Ronald Harwood as favourite reading of 2004 in ‘Books of the Year’ feature.—Sunday Telegraph
“....Scholarly but very readable....[Booker's] book is a fascinating one....”—Leicester Mercury (UK) Nov. 16, 2004
“...good....stimulating, ambitious” — Adam Mars-Junes, Observer (UK) November 21, 2004
“The basic plot of The Seven Basic Plots is the quest. Booker writes as if intent on recreating for the reader his own (34 year) experience of travelling ‘a long and complex journey.’ —-Kasia Boddy, Daily Telegraph (UK), November 20, 2004
“I salute his hatred of soap operas, and the many sloppy films and TV shows and novels which have lost touch with the fascinating and emotionally satisfying business of story.” —-A.N. Wilson, Daily Telegraph (UK) Nov. 8, 2004
“Christopher Booker has written a book of considerable value. I doubt whether any single volume has ever drawn on a wider range of stories, plays, novels and films than his....” — Sunday Telegraph (Review)
“Continuum may be deeply conservative in its view of modern storytelling as a reflection of society’s moral decline, but this enormous tome is worth the work.” —New Statesman
"I shall be rattling this secret weapon, this golden key to all mythologies, in every door I come across for months to come." —Noonie Minogue, The Tablet (UK) Jan. 8, 2005
“....the achievement is monumental and a tribute to the passion with which he [Booker] has pursued his interest in fiction and in story-telling.....a compelling read....”
“....This is a work of voracious reading and unstoppable enthusiasm....” — Evening Standard
"This astonishing, enthralling, addictive and vastly referenced volume about the birth of imaginative literature belongs on every writer's desk. After reading it you'll see every novel you open in a different light." —Christopher Fowler, Independent on Sunday (UK) Dec. 26, 2005
"The Seven Basic Plots shows how influential these stories are: how deeply we are programmed to be receptive to them and how they help to give meaning and narrative to our thinking....[and is] hugely enjoyable." —Mary Kenny, Irish Independent (UK) January 3, 2005
"Booker's work is sweeping in its scope, and impressive in its appreciatin of story in all its many manifestations....a thought-provoking contribution to the party played by classical and contemporary storytelling in human culture; it will open up the value of narrative to all who venture between its covers." —Rev. Dr. Vaughan Robertrs, Church Times (UK) Dec. 24, 2004
"I warn you, if you open this book, you'll find it hard to shut." —Peter Mullen, Northern Echo (UK) December 2004
"The achievement if monumental and a tribute to the passion with which (Booker) has pursued his interest in fiction and in story-telling....a compelling read which explains why a good work of fiction is far more than a comfort on a dark winter's evening or a companion on a train, and why it demands a psycholgical and emotional response on the part of the reader. For in some ingenious way, by setting up a conversation with the human psyche, a good book reads us, just as much as we read it. And in this work Christopher Booker has explained wny." —Lavinia Byrne, Cheddar Valley Gazette (UK) Nov. 11, 2004
"Booker, a regular contributor to the Sunday Telegraph and 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 to recurring folktales to high and low literature, as well as plays and movies—Booker manages to incorporate the work as 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 University, Library Journal, Feb. 1, 2005 (Library Journal)
“The central weakness of this book is that it fails to defend the very Jungian tenets upon which its entire argument is constructed...while quite enjoying the long plough through, I found by the end that I had not agreed with a single word of it.” –Literary Review, Alexander Waugh, 1st February 2005
“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 fiction of every description is infectious. He covers Greek and Roman literature, fairy tales, European novel 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 Seven Basic Plots is nevertheless one of most diverting works on storytelling I’ve ever encountered. Pity about Jung, but there’s no denying the charm of Booker’s twice told tales.” –washingtonpost.com, May 8 2005
"This magisterial volume really does offer readers a genuinely fresh and exciting perspective on virtually every tale ever told." —Bookmark, July 2005 (Bookmark)
'Unusual... the author shows that stories can be seen to chart the psychological development of mankind.' Good Book Guide
Like the previous reviewer, I didn't find the later parts of the book to be as convincing as the first, particularly the explanation of each of the seven plots.
However, that first part is absolutely breathtaking in its scope and originality. I genuiunely felt that "watcher-of-new-planet-in-the-skies" feeling on numerous occasions.
Bearing in mind it took Booker over 30(!) years to write, this is a seminal achievement. It also made me want to read, or re-read a number of the books he refers to.
Well worth the money. Came in very handy on a recent return trip to New Zealand (50+ hours potential reading time ) as aircraft reading.
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