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The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories Hardcover – 28 Oct 2004


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 728 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.; 1st Edition edition (28 Oct. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826452094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826452092
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.3 x 5.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 379,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About 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'.

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Review

"I am overwhelmed by the immensity of [this] intellectual, literary, cultural and psychological achievement." -- Anthony Stevens

From the Publisher

Breathtaking in its scope and originality, Seven Basic Plots examines the basis of story- telling in literature, film, and libretto. No one will ever read a novel in the same way again.
Comparable to Harold Bloom's masterpiece The Canon.
The fruit of a lifetime's research and fifteen years in the writing.
Christopher Booker is an author with a high profile with a weekly column in The Sunday Telegraph. This is his most important book to date.
Review coverage and fierce argument and debate about this book are guaranteed.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. J. Clee on 24 May 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To keep this brief:

i) The typos, and some of the synopses, are horrendous. Hugely unprofessional all-round (typos the fault of the publisher, the synopses of the author)
ii) The basic concept of masculine and feminine energies, how they interact and complement each other, is masterfully summarised. And just in get you don't get the message, it is hammered home to you, ad infinitum. (Personally, I had no problem with this.)
iii) Brooker's thesis that Western man's slide can be traced to the rise of romanticism and the veering-off from classical, Jungian-type storytelling, while worthy of note, is too simplistic to be swallowed whole. We're evolving, and that means our storytelling, too. If we go off track, then that's because in our failures lies the path to success. (Ease up, Mr. Brooker. I don't really care too much for Daily Telegraph politics entering the debate.)

All things weighed up, this a very worthwhile read. Its faults are as illuminating as its strengths.
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By R. E. Holmes on 21 Mar. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This lengthy book begins with an exposition of the seven basic plots identified by Booker. He goes on to explain that, essentially, these plots are about the universal human story of growing up, detaching from parents, getting together with one's 'other half' and producing the next generation.

So far, so interesting - and reasonably persuasive.

It is when Booker starts relating everything to Jungian archetypes and examining how literature has developed in the last two centuries (and, latterly, film) that things start to go awry.

Having decided that stories are all about maturing and having your own family, Booker takes the unwarranted leap to saying that any story that departs from this underlying theme is a story that has 'gone wrong'. Moreover - and as an even more unwarranted leap - Booker infers that any author whose story has gone wrong must himself have failed to mature properly.

Briefly, anything that doesn't end up with a man and woman being united is, according to Booker, indicative of egotism. (Oh yes, and said man and woman must be 'mature': an assessment which Booker makes only by reference to their conformity with his hypothesised archetypal characters and themes.) The literature of the last 200 years has experimented outside of his archetypes and themes, indicating, he says, a more egotistical and shallow culture.

This is simply unconvincing, and annoying.

So, a story that ends with, say, a happy homosexual union can't be a 'proper' story? And there must be something psychologically immature about its author? Any story that deals with social alienation and moral shades of grey is a 'bad' story that is infested with egotism, because it doesn't use the black and white 'goodie vs baddie' world of his archetypes?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By H.P.J.M. on 11 May 2012
Format: Paperback
This weighty 700 page book is divided into four Parts. The first Part goes through a plethora of stories from different cultures and from different times to show recurring themes in each and to demonstrate how any story can not only be shown to belong to any one of seven plots (which are not mutually exclusive), but also that these plots all share common stages and archetypes. Part Two of the book talks more about the Jungian archetypes mentioned in the first Part which form the basis for Booker's analysis of plots, as well as showing what 'conditions' need to be met before the story can be fully resolved. Part Three explores the stories which in the last 200 years generally have missed the mark of being complete and resolved, at the same time supporting the contention that all stories have to conform to the same archetypal rules. The final Part of the book attempts to explain why we tell stories, discussing a wide range of aspects pertaining to human existence from the archetypes found in stories and trying to understand how they can help us interpret our psychological evolution.

I notice that some people have criticised this book for several reasons. I don't think that Booker is reductionist. He is attempting to formulate an objective way in which we can analyse stories. His theory attempts to identify what the plots are, why they are as they are, and when books don't conform to this theory explain why they have diverged. It is as scientific and objective as any approach to stories can be, considering evidence to support a hypothesis while also taking note of counterexamples. Booker shows why the Jungian approach seems sensible, because it yields an internally consistent theory.
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61 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Amy Chu on 24 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a superb book judged by any standard and from any angle. I'd give it 6 stars if it were allowed.
It's extensively researched, annotated, and beautifully written. Not repetitive at all as some reviewers claim. Just for the sheer volume of encyclopedic reference material you should buy it.
Previous reviewers have commented negatively about Booker's presupposition of morals/ethics in terms of developing a good story. I heartily applaud Booker for this and additionally his point that the inner transformation of characters is what gives them and the story depth and meaning.
Resolving inner conflicts through a journey of dicovery/quest is why we read/listen to/watch stories/movies, etc. in the first place. Nowadays we have become so used to and enthralled by two dimensional pasteboard characters in modern novels/movies that we resent anyone who suggest that good stories need morals, depth and inner transformation of the characters as well as an external plot. Stories are not just for entertainment but good stories feeds the soul, just as pop music is entertainment and cathartic but classical music can be religious experiences.
Other reviewers have complained about the Jungian approach in analysing the development of characters. I personally think this is the best point of this book. I particularly agree with Booker's point that authors subconsciously projects their personal shadows onto his characters and one can nearly always discern the author's personal morals by the stories he writes. After all, creativity is but an exercise in self-discovery.
This book should be listed under Jungian psychology as well.
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