"Always" and "never" are not words that have much meaning in literary study. For one thing, as soon as something seems to always be true, some wise guy will come along and write something to prove that it's not.

This quote takes in "Chapter 1: Every Trip is a Quest (Except When It’s Not)", as Foster discusses his own tendency to pose generalizations as absolutes. He notes here that though he may tend towards hyperbole in the book, his observations about how to read texts are best interpreted in shades of gray rather than black and white. This is a key to reading Foster’s book because though the general statements he makes about pattern recognition, symbols, and memory are often true, literature is varied and evolving. New generations of writers often come along and upend received truths. For example, Foster explores often throughout the book how Angela Carter’s work flies in the face of received wisdom when it comes to patriarchal ideas, riffing off Shakespeare, the use of fairy tales, the symbolism of flying, and the function of a sex scene. So while the text here gives guidance for curious readers on how to deepen their understanding of literary works, there are no hard and fast rules that apply to every text. 

“Here it is: there’s only one story. There, I said it and I can’t very well take it back. There is only one story. Ever. One. It’s always been going on and it’s everywhere around us and every story you’ve ever read or heard or watched is part of it.”

This quote takes place in "Chapter 4: Now, Where Have I Seen Her Before", when Foster is discussing how history can be a valuable source of symbolic material. Here, Foster suggests that every story, from pieces of literature, poems, films, and other stories, are part of a singular story. This idea is the foundation of intertextuality and encapsulates the idea that all story is in dialogue with other stories. Individual texts are not siloed, and no writer writes in a vacuum. Instead, writers are constantly influenced, not just by each other but by every story they encounter–including films and movies, the news, and history. What’s more, each piece of literature contributes to the larger story. This also contributes to the idea that there is no original story. Each story interacts with those that have come before and will influence the ones that come in the future. 

“What we mean when speaking of 'myth' in general is story, the ability of story to explain ourselves to ourselves in ways that physics, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry—all very highly useful and informative in their own right—can't.”

This quote takes place in "Chapter 8: It’s Greek to Me", as Foster discusses the importance and power of myth. Here, Foster explores how myth is story that matters, meaning that the myths that a culture tells itself convey meaning and help readers understand what it means to be human. The reason that readers may turn to myth instead of science or philosophy is that myths reflect the readers back to themselves in ways that have been helpful, often for generations. The Greek and Roman myths that Foster explores in these chapters have been foundational for Western understanding of values, connection, and how to live. For example, though science and philosophy may both caution against rash action and impulsive thinking, the myth of Icarus conveys the danger of these traits in a more visceral, memorable way. The story of Icarus is woven into the fabric of Western society and continually reappears because it teaches readers something classic and valuable about hope and caution.