Underlying Structure of Stories

I’m a sucker for good “recipe” books on writing technique. and this looks like a particularly good one. Instead of the crit-lit hobby-horse riding or cultural marxturbation one risks with this genre, it breaks down children’s literature into a dozen or so storytelling/mythic categories. And while it focuses on children’s stories, from what I could see browsing through it the analyses are wholly relevant to young-adult and mainstream adult fiction.

I.e.: it’s more in the Farnsworth vein than the Krentz coven as far as writing-technique books go.

Nancy Drew and Charles MacKay

Ann Althouse points to an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, citing a set of favorite books that both amused and impressed me: “When I was 9 or 10, in Kenya, the Nancy Drew books showed me a type of empowered girl that I was not used to at all.”

I’ll just bet that an African Muslim girl was not used to the likes of Nancy Drew. I’ve been reading some of the original Drew books lately for writing research (hey, if you’re going to have someone mock your protagonist as “playing Nancy Drew”, it probably helps to know the source material), and am greatly amused at the writing style and period sensibilities. I need to write a full post on this, but suffice to say that Nancy Drew is not the type of empowered girl modern American girls are used to – indeed, it would be hilarious to rewrite some of the stories set in today’s Tumblr-teen culture to illustrate the point.

As for MacKay, I would have sworn I’d written a review of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds when I read that book a few years ago, but I heartily agree with the recommendation. It puts everything from “satanic child abuse” to the housing and green energy bubbles to “global warming” to “rape culture” into perspective – since the book predates modern social science there isn’t a lot of analysis of the material presented, but after reading umpteen-hundred pages of examples of fads, manias, bubbles, hysterias, etc. it’s not hard to see the common threads among them and draw your own conclusions about human psychology/human nature. Personally, I’m quite impressed that Hirsi Ali likes the book – it’s a little bit obscure, not the kind of thing you’d expect an academic to have read or, if read, to have appreciated at all.