E. M. Forster - C or D, s&d, etc.

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When I was in my early teens I used to watch this BBC series about Great Writers of the 20th Century - it instigated a reading habits revival of sorts and created a sort of first personal canon for myself (James Baldwin, Hemingway, Burroughs)

Anyway, one of the eps was on Forster and it lead to me buying "The Longest Journey" (yes, I purposefully chose "the difficult one", arrogant brat that I was), which blew me away.

I rearead it this Summer, because it had gotten to be one of those books that I'd instinctively list amongst my all-time faves w/o remembering much of its plot or message or anything, really (I have a few of those, actually); this time around, it felt to me like Forster's a bit too harsh on both the society he lives in and (more importantly) himself. Dunno what modern class thinking would make of Ricky's half-brother, a bit "noble savage" maybe?

I also recently read "Maurice", which was just very touching and awww.

I still think I like Forster, all in all - he can be very dire, but he always seems sincerely so, there's not much in the way of mannerism or arrogance, I think.

One thing about him is in both books the women are all pretty much monsters, awful shallow creatures that ruin men with their insistence on societal norms and such. I don't want to accuse him of misogyny right away. Some of his books have female lead characters, no? How does that play out?

So what do you guys think of Forster?

Daniel_Rf (Daniel_Rf), Wednesday, 5 October 2005 12:04 (fourteen years ago) link

Classic classic classic.

'sincerely dire' is a backhanded compliment if ever I heard one Daniel! What can you mean?

Archel (Archel), Wednesday, 5 October 2005 14:11 (fourteen years ago) link

The misogyny thing - hm. It's not always the female characters who represent rigid social norms, or shallowness. I don't know if you've read Howard's End but the women in that are fantastically written I think (and it's Henry Wilcox who ruins things with the stick up his arse, his warped attachment to tradition, and his hypocrisy).

Archel (Archel), Wednesday, 5 October 2005 14:16 (fourteen years ago) link

Mind you, the books are outrageously limited in their scope (posh people feel a bit threatened by outside forces and are neurotic; honest emotion and connection between individuals may redeem, or not). But people say that about Austen and I think she's classic too.

Archel (Archel), Wednesday, 5 October 2005 14:20 (fourteen years ago) link

I was so annoyed with one of his books (Howards End, I believe) that I literally threw it against the wall when I was done with it. I think Maurice was one of the first "gay" books I read; there being gay content in it, it suited my needs at the time, but I don't remember anything about it beyond the cover and maybe some anxiety about PDAs.

Casuistry (Chris P), Wednesday, 5 October 2005 15:35 (fourteen years ago) link

I've read all Forster's novels except Maurice, most more than once, and yet it's surprising how patchily or even poorly I remember them, which maybe says something negative about them, even allowing for my poor memory.

I enjoyed them all very much, with the possible exception of A Passage to India: its social comedy/satire is wonderful, possibly his best writing, but the attempt to broaden his range by introducing symbolist/modernist elements is a resounding dud. D H Lawrence he isn't. I agree the female characters in Howard's End are wonderfully written, and I think it's his best book overall or did at the time I read it. The description of Beethoven's
Fifth (the goblins at the end of the world!!) sticks in my mind. Shows how much attitudes to music have changed that an intellectual and connoisseur like Forster could without reserve or self-consciousness declare Beethoven's Fifth to be the greatest piece of music ever written. But of course the hoi polloi couldn't get itno the concerts in those days and there were no recordings: from there to Abigail's Party is a long journey (no pun intended).

Was he a great writer? I'm tempted to think he was over-rated because he was very posh, but he's too enjoyable a writer and likeable a man for me mind or to want to argue that his reputation should be less than it is.

Aspects of the Novel is also classic.

frankiemachine, Wednesday, 5 October 2005 19:46 (fourteen years ago) link

The Beethoven part of Howard's End I did enjoy, but that was it.

Casuistry (Chris P), Wednesday, 5 October 2005 20:31 (fourteen years ago) link

'sincerely dire' is a backhanded compliment if ever I heard one Daniel! What can you mean?

"Dire" not as in bad, but just sad and morose. What I mean is, some writers use self-pity as some sort of weapon (I am TORTURED because I have DEEP THOUGHTS and am BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE!), or just purposefully set out to make things as terrible as possible. Forster often feels endlessly bleak and awful to me, but it always seems to me that with Forster it's really just the way he sees the world, and there's not an ounce of vanity or indulgence about it. In other words, he's not the whiny drama queen that you just want to fuck off, he's this good friend you have that is just genuinley sad all the time, and you genuinley wish you could make him happy, especially when so many of his troubles are (to the light of current society) due to "flaws" that either aren't actually flaws.

(I realise this argument's a bit rockist, resting as it does on sincerity, but it's the best way I can put it.)

I've only read "The Longest Journey" and "Maurice".

Daniel_Rf (Daniel_Rf), Wednesday, 5 October 2005 22:02 (fourteen years ago) link

Ah! I agree.

I think the reason I love Howard's End the most is because it offers a glimmer of something beyond the sadness, almost shows us what we need to do to transcend our awful human limitations... but then doesn't quite make it. Which is the saddest thing of all.

Archel (Archel), Thursday, 6 October 2005 07:13 (fourteen years ago) link

I love his descriptions of Italy. never 'twas a better cinematic match than Forster and Puccini in Room With a View.

My girlfriend says you cannot get to grips with Forster's writing unless you know his background. I'm not sure. You'd probably work it out from Maurice, anyway.

Mikey G (Mikey G), Thursday, 6 October 2005 08:57 (fourteen years ago) link

i was expecting maurice to be much dirtier then it was, considering its history.

anthony, Monday, 10 October 2005 04:07 (fourteen years ago) link

i was expecting maurice to be much dirtier then it was, considering its history. (it is one of the great classics of coded desire, and i dont think that the code is the same as we think it is, like all of those queer theorists unpacking henry james's ghost--there is something queer and beautiful in maurice and in some of james work, but i cant tell you what it is)

anthony, Monday, 10 October 2005 04:08 (fourteen years ago) link

It's been ages since I've read it, but I thought the desire was fairly explicit in it...?

Casuistry (Chris P), Monday, 10 October 2005 07:15 (fourteen years ago) link

but not explicit enough to be hidden in a closet for years (1917, right--look at what else was written then, for example it wasnt as explicit as Gide or Sackville-West or even Woolf.)

anthony, Tuesday, 11 October 2005 00:52 (fourteen years ago) link

Where is Woolf more explicit? Orlando? That doesn't get terribly explicit.

Wasn't Forster himself closeted? In a way that Gide or Sackville-West weren't. Publication of Maurice would have been an admission of something Forster seems to have felt as "guilt" -- or perhaps he just wanted to "protect" family or his reputation. There have been no shortage of reasons to stay closeted...

Casuistry (Chris P), Tuesday, 11 October 2005 01:28 (fourteen years ago) link

i think thats what i am arguing, i mean to his friends he was open (as open as forester ever was). i was thinking more a long the lines of three guineas or a room of ones own.

anthony, Tuesday, 11 October 2005 06:38 (fourteen years ago) link

i think there is something in the closed, anal, tight, furled dryness of it

anthony, Tuesday, 11 October 2005 06:43 (fourteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
I like Forster. Two Cheers for Democracy, Howards End, Passage to India are all really good. I liked him for his liberalism but most of all for his fair mindedness and for the cerebral quality of his essays. I like the way he wrote and perhaps his mysogeny can be attributed in part to the fact that he preferred men to women. We all have our foibles. The world would be a poorer place without him.

Ursula Osborne, Monday, 31 October 2005 23:56 (fourteen years ago) link

four years pass...

man, howard's end bugged the shit out of me

thomp, Friday, 9 July 2010 09:46 (nine years ago) link

i mean, leonard bast gets killed but he got to go for a walk on the moors once, so it is alright

thomp, Friday, 9 July 2010 10:49 (nine years ago) link

I suspect when I do die, it'll be in the same way as Bast. THere are a lot of overstacked shelves round here...

The great big red thing, for those who like a surprise (James Morrison), Sunday, 11 July 2010 23:13 (nine years ago) link

I need to marry a male Margaret Schlegel.

Filmmaker, Author, Radio Host Stephen Baldwin (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 11 July 2010 23:17 (nine years ago) link

Has anyone read "Maurice"? How is it?

orchestral manure in the dark (corey), Sunday, 11 July 2010 23:30 (nine years ago) link

Terrible -- a fantasy written by a novelist who should have known better. Which doesn't means you shouldn't read it.

Filmmaker, Author, Radio Host Stephen Baldwin (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 11 July 2010 23:39 (nine years ago) link

i have a copy but i'm going to attempt 'a passage to india' and possibly 'the eternal moment' first

thomp, Sunday, 11 July 2010 23:39 (nine years ago) link

His homosexual stories, collected in The Life to Come, are much better than Maurice (I felt so sinful reading them before I came out).

Filmmaker, Author, Radio Host Stephen Baldwin (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 11 July 2010 23:40 (nine years ago) link

I loved Room With a View and Passage is a masterpiece. I'll skip Maurice and get Howard's End next.

orchestral manure in the dark (corey), Sunday, 11 July 2010 23:42 (nine years ago) link

I don't think I've ever read a novel by him but I love the stories in The Celestial Omnibus.

o sh!t a ˁ˚ᴥ˚ˀ (ENBB), Monday, 12 July 2010 00:24 (nine years ago) link

His homosexual stories, collected in The Life to Come, are much better than Maurice (I felt so sinful reading them before I came out).

His other stories are pretty ace, too, including SF classic 'The Machine Stops'.

The great big red thing, for those who like a surprise (James Morrison), Tuesday, 13 July 2010 01:29 (nine years ago) link

'eternal moment' appears to be a collection of these, with introduction on how he is "unlikely to attempt anything further along this line"

thomp, Tuesday, 13 July 2010 09:16 (nine years ago) link

nine years pass...

Rereading The Longest Journey sounds like a good idea.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 31 August 2019 17:25 (two months ago) link


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