Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Seven Basic Plots

It is not often that I read a book that I wish to recommend to so many of my friends and relatives, for different reasons. I am only 150 pages (out of 700) into Christopher Booker's The Seven Basic Plots and can see that it will change how I look at stories forever. Few books, even those I have enjoyed and learned from, do that. Albion's Seed and The Nine Nations of North America are others that come to mind on that score.

I had put the book on my wish list, intended to be sent to my son Ben, but its presence there caused my oldest son to get it for me for Father's Day. Ben was up over the Fourth, and we strategised whether it would be better for him to read it and send it back to me, or whether I should read first. On the way there I decided Jonathan would like it also. Then my brother Jonathan (though I might get him his own for Christmas). Today I was thinking how much my wife would like the section on Comedy.

It is fascinating to see books, movies, and plays I have loved with new eyes, and it's all here: Greek plays, Genesis and Exodus, Shakespeare, silent movies, Jane Austen, Gilbert and Sullivan, PG Wodehouse, Star Wars, romantic comedy, musical theater, Beowulf, Gilgamesh, Narnia, Groucho Marx. Simply amazing.

I do not recommend this to those who have not read, watched, or acted a lot of plots, which usually means that age is an advantage here. I might pass this on to young Stephen just because he's a filmmaker and needs to see this. But I think it will be steep for him. Even if you are planning on studying literature I would skim this before plunking down your money. The book will indeed offer you amazing insights into what you will study. But there might not be enough cuphooks in your brain to hang the cups on yet, and it may be difficult to retain the knowledge.

Still, even the youngest readers here have been well up the bell curve for intelligence and sophistication, so it might suit. For one such as myself who is 56, it is a treasure and a joy.

Now watch, it will change directions at page 200 and I'll decide to unrecommend it.


Donna B. said...

You're about to cost me more money, aren't you? At least I've got an Amazon gift certificate to spend because I recently became the same age as you.

Ben Wyman said...

I was gonna read it when I was home, but... 700 pages. It's a good thing I didn't read it first, I would've read it over the course of about 4 months, in little spurts. You would never have gotten it back

Boethius said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I will have to go and pick it up.

Anonymous said...

I'm about half way through it now. It's difficult to read in small spurts. I've had the book since last fall and only pick it up when I have at least an hour to devote to it.

Sam L. said...

Reminds me of when I was a teenager, having watched a lot of old western movies on TV, and came up with a list of the basic conflicts driving the movies.

Dubbahdee said...

When you share your books around the family, do you annotate them? Do you get to read each other's notes?

If you unrecommend the book, what plot is that?