Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When E.M. Forster talks...

now finished: Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster
now reading: John Quincy Adams: A Private Life, A Public Life by Paul. C. Nagel

E.M. Forster: I swoon. When I first read him two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised at the sheer awesomeness of his writing in A Passage to India. I've owned a copy of his Aspects of the Novel for years, but just got around to reading it after letting it stare accusingly at me from my shelf of books-on-writing that I somehow keep ignoring while I waste time going to law school, etc. Not only was it high time I read his classic on what a novel is, but it was also time to commence my A-to-Z Literary Blog Project sequel, in which I shall read a second book from my A-to-Z top half, the thirteen authors I liked best. So, this was my second Forster.

He's just so freakin' smart. And literary. And witty, and perceptive. He puts things so well, even when he's just talking about literature and not writing it. He is a true master. I would so love to hear from people who met him or heard him speak before he died. You must be out there - share your thoughts with me! I find everything he says so impressive. Reading Aspects of the Novel, however, I also found myself in fits of jealousy as he analyzed this or that novel; I have a four-page list of reading suggestions now, thanks to him. My Goodreads "to-read" shelf runneth over.

But he did talk about books I have read also. You know, your Wuthering Heights, your Great Expectaions, and perhaps most exciting, War and Peace. E.M. Forster sings its praises, good on him. He's super matter-of-fact about it being marvelous. He even comes out and says that foreign novelists are basically better than English novelists, and he calls Tolstoy courageous and divine. As for The Book in particular, he offers this:

"Then why is War and Peace not depressing? Probably because it has extended over space as well as over time, and the sense of space until it terrifies us is exhilarating, and leaves behind it an effect like music. After one has read War and Peace for a while, great chords begin to sound, and we cannot say exactly what has struck them." -- p. 39

Soooo good. He concludes that the development of novels may well be a reflection of the development of humanity. I want to hang out with E.M. and talk about novels over a few beers. But he gets to do most of the talking.


Jim Cooke said...

Reading Paul Nagel's John Quincy Adams - A Public Life - A Private Life -- It is fun to make the connection that: Had John Quincy Adams not been in Russia as our first minister to establish the relationship he forged with Czar Alexander -- which drove a wedge between Russia and Napoleon -- the war of War and Peace might not have unfolded as it did.

linda said...

What an excellent point! I love when worlds collide.

Hector Macdonald said...

Hi Linda

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Right now, we're running a $3,000 Tournament and we'll be offering contract work to the best entries.

Best wishes

Hector Macdonald
Editor, Book Drum