Monday, January 24, 2011

Author Appreciation: E.M. Forster

There are authors out there who will win you over with their words. I won’t even try to deny it. If E.M. Forster walked up to me out of the blue and asked me to marry him, I would. Unfortunately, this will never happen because he is a) gay b) dead. I never really had a chance.
I think the main reason why I love him is because his stories aren’t really about plot, although it happens. He's a humanist and it shows. His novels are all about decency. That’s the only thing that matters to him, and although this sometimes has written his novels into strange narrative corners (Howards End, anyone? How on earth does Meg get pregnant? Really. I know how it supposedly happened, but I can’t really believe it. This is a man who married a prostitute to save her from the poorhouse or worse. He is not going to have sex with an unmarried lady.) But I have to agree, decency is everything.  Dear authors: do you want to make me cry? Don’t try so hard with the death and the despair. Instead, have someone be kind in spite of everything. I will be sobbing on the floor.
As well, Forster just understands people, and the way he writes is just… well read him. This is one of my favourite parts from A Room With a View.
It did not do to think, nor, for the matter of that, to feel. She gave up trying to understand herself, and joined the vast armies of the benighted, who follow neither the heart not the brain, and march to their destiny by catchwords. The armies are full of pleasant and pious folk. But they have yielded to the only enemy that matters – the enemy within. They have sinned against passion and truth, and vain will be their strife after virtue. As the years pass, they are censured. Their pleasantry and their piety show cracks, their wit becomes cynicism, their unselfishness hypocrisy; they feel and produce discomfort wherever they go. They have sinned against Eros and against Pallas Athena, and not by any heavenly intervention but by the ordinary course of nature, those allied deities will be avenged.
Forster catches out that moment of becoming that person, a moment that I’m rather afraid of, and describes it so that I know why I’m afraid that I could end up like that. I don’t know, I feel that he really understands (a certain group of) people. Maybe that didn't speak to you, I understand. I regularly have moments of ridiculous connection to certain characters. There's a reason why the book club at Queen's knew about my deep connection to Dorothea Brooke from Eliot's Middlemarch (also why The Cider House Rules changed my life). I do tend to go on about things.
Now, I have to admit that my Masters in English, which I finished in June, has sort of drained me. At the moment I have trouble reading "important" books.  I started A Passage to India this summer and I’m only a quarter of the way through. In fact, my copy got left behind in Ottawa. It probably doesn’t matter; I’ve been halfway through Dostoyesky’s The Idiot for a year now, and that one is actually in Montreal with me, glaring at me on my bookshelf. I guess my real reason for this author appreciation is to wish that I had the enthusiasm to read something really, intensely wonderful again. I am loving the young adult fiction, thrillers and mysteries that I have been reading, but I wish I had the strength for something sublime. I don’t know. Am I the only one who isn’t summoning my full reading strength? Is there someone else I should be trying to read? If you have any suggestions, I would really appreciate it.

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