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Old 03-02-2011, 12:01 PM   #31
spellbanisher
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beppe View Post
Forster, years later of writing A room with a view, explained in a famous lecture that he gave in Cambridge, how to build full characters that have three dimensions and flat characters, that are represented by just some action or some aspects of their personality, and that he uses for the narrative purposes. To me it was interesting, and one of the many keys in enjoying the reading, to distinguish among them. I think you sensed, or reasoned of course, a very similar effect. Good for you and compliments for the nice comments. Very enjoyable.

I still think that the value of the novel is the fabric of Forster considerations, directly as comments, or through some of the characters line. More than the plot itself. And the lightness of his touch.
Interesting about his methods of building characters. I'm going to have to find that lecture. I think that though his characters had personality, that doesn't quite mean they had depth of character. Mrs. Bennett (from Pride and Prejudice) had plenty of personality, but I don't think anyone would accuse her of being a deep person. These surfaces also matter and really help develop the themes and narrative. Even though the characters don't seem repressed, even though they all seem unique and lively, they are still repressed in their hearts. That personality is just a facade; its fancy architecture and colorful clothing. It's artificial and shallow. It hides the reality. They can be lively and fun but they are not allowed to achieve their personal desires, to connect to each other on a personal level. Everything is still on the level of the external. Everything beautiful is externalized so that they don't have to find beauty within themselves or in others. Society may no longer be stuffy, but any progress that represents is a sham. The notion of progress itself might be a sham, an illusion, that justifies personal oppression.

I think the lightness of his touch, or the delicateness, is Forster's strength and weakness. Unlike most nineteenth century writers, like Dostoevsky, Dickens, and Balzac, Forster doesn't slam his themes into the readers head. Nineteenth century writers (except for maybe the realists) were unmistakable in what they were trying to convey. They'd tie you up, throw you to the ground, and force feed you their themes. Forster doesn't hold the readers hand or drag him along. Forster's delicacy can be weakness, though, because it makes it easy to miss important details, to gloss over the book and see nothing. That's why I think so many readers feel empty after reading this novel. Still, I think if the reader manages to pay attention he can absorb the themes and by the end the themes become apparent in some way. Like with the characters, the revelation lingers and ebbs at the outer edges of the reader's consciousness, until the moment the reader is ready for a breakthrough. I suggest to readers who didn't get this novel the first time to give it a second shot, this time with the big picture in mind. You'll see things that were hiding behind the characters and events before, all the little hidden actors and forces will come to the fore, and you'll find that this book is worthy of its classic status.

Forster still, however, exhibits characteristics of the Victorian writer. His style and methods are in a transitionary state between Victorianism and Modernism. His narrator still tends to elaborate a bit much, still explicates themes or summarizes characters too tidily. He hasn't quite achieved the "scrupulous meanness" described by Joyce. For me it created an odd feeling of reading something that is modern yet not-quite-so modern. For other readers this state of flux may be alienating.

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Old 03-02-2011, 12:26 PM   #32
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To elaborate on the last paragraph in my previous post, I think many readers interpret Edwardian fiction as fluffy and pointless. Modernism can be so ungenerous in what it gives to the reader that you just know and assume that there is something going on beneath the surface. Just think of Hemingway's iceberg theory. With Victorianism the themes are explicit and unmistakable. Edwardian fiction is not quite either. If you come into the work expecting nothing to be handed to you, like you would with a modernist work, you'll find that the narrator does give you something, and therefore conclude that the work is premodern. But when you try to read it as Victorian fiction you find that the narrator doesn't have nearly as much to say as Victorian narrators, and therefore conclude that the book itself has little to say.
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Old 03-02-2011, 01:13 PM   #33
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I'm going to have to find that lecture.

that is not a problem. I mentioned it in a hurry, but now I can give it to you:
Aspects of the Novel
RosettaBooks ISB 0795309503


Spoiler:
About the Book
The Clark Lectures, sponsored by Trinity College of the University of Cambridge, have had a long and distinguished history and have featured remarks by some of England's most important literary minds. Leslie Stephen, T.S. Eliot, F.R. Leavis, William Empson and I.A. Richards have all given celebrated and widely influential talks as the keynote speaker. One of the Lectures' most important milestones came in 1927 when, for the first time, a novelist was invited to speak. E.M. Forster had recently published his masterpiece, A Passage to India, and rose to the occasion, delivering eight spirited and penetrating lectures on the novel.


Wait. Let me add a big smile

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Old 03-04-2011, 01:20 PM   #34
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I can't say I really liked any of the characters much (Mr. Emerson excepted). They were all pretty one dimensional—hard to identify with.

Usually it would have been hard to keep going, but I was completely drawn in and on with the writing. I kept trying to figure out why, what was about Forster's writing that was so exceptional? I am seldom actually aware of the specific literary merits (it that's the right terminology) of a book, even one I really like but I was completely captivated with this one.

I read this in January and in truth cannot recall much of the plot, but I do recall the pleasure derived in the reading simply due to the talents of the author. I have added Forster's Aspects of the Novel to my soon-to-read list. I anticipate really liking it as I prefer nonfiction to fiction.
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Old 03-05-2011, 01:23 PM   #35
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A big THANK YOU to this reading group! I had previously been unaware of this author. Making liberal use of dictionary.com and Wikipedia, I have enjoyed my Italian holiday. Now I can't wait to see what happens in England.
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