An excellent and ambitious attempt to ""account for the varieties of narrative form and the processes that produce them and govern their interrelationships."" The authors draw on myriad sources, including anthropological and philological works, as well as all relevant historical and scholarly material. A great deal of space is devoted to tracing the art of story-telling back five thousand years to its oral heritage or to its later classical splendors. The stress here is on the misuse of terms such as ""realistic"" or ""romance"" or ""epic,"" showing how the modern reader has only hazy notions about them and does not realize how much the older forms of narration have affected that category of fiction we call the novel. It is impossible to delineate here the dense, intricate, wide coverage presented, from primitive beginnings through Homer, Virgil, the Icelandic Sagas onwards to Joyce and Proust. There is indeed an embarrassment of riches, sometimes, alas, resulting in a diffusion of esoteric information and/or an organizational deficiency. But the authors certainly do prove that ""to understand the present we must possess the past, "" and their volume will be a definitive reference for some time to come.