Top critical review
We need a good book on storytelling - but this ain't it!
June 30, 2004
Having seen the previous reviews, I came to this book with high hopes. They were never realised. Obviously the author has hit the nail squarely on the head for some readers, but I'll be hornswoggled if I can tell why.
When I got to the end of the book I was still waiting for something, anything, that would turn my dissatisfaction into a feeling that it had all been worthwhile. But my hopes simply weren't met.
OK. Do you see a pattern in those first two paragraphs? Lots of promise but no delivery, nothing to get your teeth into. That is how this book was *for me*.
The book starts well.
Chapter 1: The Six Stories You Need to Know How to Tell. Great stuff - for the first 26 pages, But somehow that seems to be the nearest we come to anything concrete regarding the art of storytelling. It is followed by over 200 pages of text, but those 200+ pages concentrate almost entirely on "what" you should do, with far too little on "how" to do it.
Things weren't helped by the story at the start of Chapter 6: Sound Bite or Epic. I was already halfway through the book, and still wondering when we were going to get to the meat and potatoes, and the "Somali tale from Ethiopia" about a woman going to a shaman who tells her to get hold of a tiger's whisker, really pulled the plug.
Firstly Somalia (where Somali's come from) and Ethiopia are two separate countries, next-door neighbours, who spend much of the time at each other's throats. Secondly don't Africans have witch doctors, etc. rather than shamans? and thirdly, there are no tigers in Africa, only lions (tigers are found on the Indian subcontinent).
Now you might think this is nit picking, especially since the story itself does illustrate a valid point.
My problem is that this kind of presentation strikes me as being thoroughly disrespectful. It confuses Somalia and Ethiopia, it lumps all "wise men" under the trendy label "shaman", and it shows a basic ignorance of nature. In short, *to me* it says: "I'm telling a story, I don't have to go to the bother of actually getting the factual bits right - not even in the attribution."
Fine, but if an author wants me to pay them for what they're offering then I believe they DO owe their readers sufficient respect to avoid making such basic errors.
My biggest concern, however, is that the book simply doesn't "walk its talk".
If storytelling - or just "story", as the author whimsically insists on calling it throughout most of the book - is supposed to be so effective, shouldn't the book actually *illustrate* this fact rather than just telling me about it?
Why, for example, are a number of the stories included in the book presented in cut down form instead of allowing the reader to savour - and learn from - the full length version?
This author apparently runs workshops on various aspects of storytelling, and for all I know these may be incredibly stimulating and effective. Unfortunately, I found no such excitement in this book, just the same few messages - "storytelling is wonderful", "storytelling builds bridges", etc. - repeated over and over and OVER again.
For my money, just about ANY book by Idries Shah will give more insight into storytelling than "The Story Factor" - even the books that (apparently) contain nothing but stories.