Monday, November 15, 2004

The Seven Basic Plots ...?

In the Telegraph

I have three objections to even this rather modest review. One is the invocation of God as a reference point in secular storytelling; I don't think religion has anything to do with most stories, including medieval folk tales and fairy tales. Another "danger" flag for me is the reference to Carl Jung, whose wild speculations always revive in me the desire for concrete, provable assertions. And finally, any theory of narrative that stops before the 19th century is bound to be painfully limited. Maybe it's too much to ask for any straightforward explanation of Thackeray's ironies or George Eliot's philosophizing. But what about Dickens?

Still, the title (The Seven Basic Plots) and the dream behind this book is attractive to me. One wants there to be a simple explanation for narrative structure, a general Key to All Storytelling. Unfortunately, there isn't one, and attempts to prove there is usually end up being a bit Quixotic (and I use that word advisedly).

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