Both veteran and budding storytellers will learn a great deal from Storr’s pages, which themselves add up to a meaty yarn.



British novelist and science journalist Storr (Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What It’s Doing to Us, 2018, etc.) peels back the neuroscience of what makes stories work.

A good story—Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, say, or Dracula—operates on rules that its makers may have internalized but may not be able to enumerate. One is that the creator of a story builds a model world that readers then colonize and rebuild. In one study, subjects “watched” stories as they were being related by casting their eyes upward when events occurred above the line of horizon, and “when they heard ‘downward’ stories, that’s where their eyes went too.” Tracking saccades when stories land on a person is one thing, but there are fundamental observations that storytellers have long known: Character is more important than plot, for instance, and, as Storr puts it, “every story you’ll ever hear amounts to ‘something changed.’ ” A skillful storyteller will then build the promise of change close to the beginning, as with E.B. White’s opening to Charlotte’s Web: “Where’s Papa going with that ax?” Humans being self-centered if social critters, another fundamental element is that we all like to be the hero of our own epics—our lives, that is—which helps explain our attraction to other such heroes and the journeys they face, which involve at least a couple of failures before getting it right. Moreover, we like the vicarious experience of chaos while yearning for stability in our own lives, which explains the value of a good tale full of reversals. As for that old rule about avoiding clichés like the plague? It turns out that the brain doesn’t fire quite so blazingly when it hears a familiar phrase as when it hears a fresh new metaphor, reason enough for the careful writer to try to find a new way of turning a phrase.

Both veteran and budding storytellers will learn a great deal from Storr’s pages, which themselves add up to a meaty yarn.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4303-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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