NOW READING: A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
I continue in India. Since I have been a slacker and not posting, I'm starting to accumulate many a folded page and nary a post about them. Tonight I'll try to catch up a bit.
For one thing, this book is wonderfully philosophical out of nowhere, sprinkled in among the paragraphs describing the goings-on of English and Indian interminglings, and done so well that when it goes back from philosophy to the "action," you find you are still philosophizing. Like this: "But she did not take the disappointment as seriously as Miss Quested, for the reason that she was forty years older, and had learnt that Life never gives us what we want at the moment that we consider appropriate. Adventures do occur, but not punctually. She said again that she hoped that something interesting would be arranged for next Tuesday." - p. 23
Then there is the whole thing where you want to harshly judge the English civil officials for their callous and snobby ways among the "Natives" but you also have a tiny bit of sympathy, especially(?) if you have lived and worked abroad, say, teaching English in a Korean academy where you had daily thrown across your path obstacles that were not insurmountable so much as they were inscrutable. But you feel bad about the judgments you yourself made, too. Like this: "'You never used to judge people like this at home.' 'India isn't home,' he retorted, rather rudely, but in order to silence her he had been using phrases and arguments that he had picked up from older officials, and he did not feel quite sure of himself." --p. 33
Then there are the religious considerations, Moslem, Hindu, lots of lapsed Christians. And now I have a question. During one passage we are invited to ponder the likes of jackals and wasps gaining an eternal reward. And if them, then how about bacteria? And cactus? Are they not loved by the gods? The missionary thinks, "No, no, this is going too far. We must exclude someone from our gathering, or we shall be left with nothing." -- p. 38 Well, I can add nothing to that, which just about sums up religion right there.
But I'm curious about the early part of that passage because it starts out with the monkeys: "And why should the divine hospitality cease here? Consider, with all reverence, the monkeys. May there not be a mansion for the monkeys also?...he saw no reason why monkeys should not have their collateral share of bliss, and he had sympathetic discussions about them with his Hindu friends." --pp. 37-38
Wow. After years of listening to The Pixies' "Monkey Gone to Heaven" I suddenly find myself wondering where good ol' Frank Black got his inspiration for that line. Could he have been reading A Passage to India? Why not? I hear tell he came up with the hook and those "monkey gone to heaven" words before he fleshed out the song.
Also I cannot let this opportunity pass. I must say that the repeated "This monkey's gone to heaven" of the chorus is one of the best misheard lyrics ever, having once resulted in my favorite "This month is bound to happen." Indeed it is.
Also, for those who care and even those who don't much, though I'm still in F, guess what? I do believe I know who my 'J' author is going to be. A small prize goes to the first person to guess correctly. And I think I know who my 'N' author is going to be as well, although, AHEM, that one appears to have been selected for me...
"Got killed by ten million pounds of sludge
from New York and New Jersey
This monkey's gone to heaven..."