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A Structural Straightjacket,
This review is from: Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them (Paperback)
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The premise that stories have an archetypal structural underpinning is hardly
a new one. Carl Jung's thoughts on the existence of a "collective unconscious"
were well mapped-out in the early part of the last century and remain tantalising
despite their somewhat romantic assertions. Jung of course claimed an empirical basis
for his research and John Yorke seems affected by the same delusion when it comes
to the central thesis of his book 'Into The Woods : A Five Act Journey Into Story'.
Mr Yorke starts from a position of certainty with regard to his proposal that all
stories conform to a structural (and immutable) foundation of three and/or five "acts"
and subsequently spends the best part of three hundred pages laboriously repeating his
hypothesis until we are numbed into submission. In many ways, however, his narrative
seems opposed to what truly makes the difference between good writing and great writing :
imagination, spontaneity and innovation. The limitations of such an overwrought and
reductive model are ultimately stifling. A five thousand word essay would have sufficed.
As a refreshing alternative do read Bruce Chatwin's marvelous book 'The Songlines' (1987).