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Old 02-01-2010, 03:51 PM   #46
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Old 02-01-2010, 04:20 PM   #47
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I wasn't part of the book club when the group read A Passage to India. I am interested in reading more of Forster's work. Would those of you who are familiar with Forster recommend A Passage to India, or something else to start?
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Old 02-01-2010, 05:38 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by Fledchen View Post
I wasn't part of the book club when the group read A Passage to India. I am interested in reading more of Forster's work. Would those of you who are familiar with Forster recommend A Passage to India, or something else to start?
You might want to read the Passage to India thread. Most of us thought it was quite dull and hard to get through book... although it did have some decent stuff in it.

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=32136

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Old 02-01-2010, 10:44 PM   #49
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How are we defining 'freedom'?

None of us are 'free' from our own mortality, the laws of our various lands, the physical constraints of our bodies, the impulses of instinct and the subconscious, the need to eat, sleep and shelter.

What is this 'freedom' whereof you speak?
When I say freedom vs. security, I mean the freedom to live without unnecessary government intrusion upon our private lives; the freedom to choose how we live, how we express our religious sentiments or lack thereof, how we chose to seek happiness and contentment. The freedom I speak of is the freedom to criticize those government policies with which we disagree without fear of censorship or imprisonment such as occurs today in China, or death, as occurs today in Iraq, or banishment as in the former Soviet Union, or being hauled before committees and pressured to inform on like-minded friends and colleagues, as happened in the United States during the McCarthy era.

Of course there will always be cultural, familial, ethical and social restrictions upon all who chose to live among other human beings; that goes almost without saying, and necessary limits upon our personal actions in so far as these actions affect other people with whom we come into contact. As the saying goes, your right to swing your fists ends where my nose begins. But certain freedoms are too important to surrender simply because they at times can lead to rocking society out of its tranquil security. I speak here of freedoms such as the right to peaceful assembly, or the right of the press to report the facts without fear of political reprisal.

Now if we want to talk about whether any of us are truly free in terms of free will verses determinism; that is another subject altogether. The freedoms I am speaking of here are the freedoms that societies grant to all their members.

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Old 02-02-2010, 03:52 AM   #50
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Thanks for the very interesting reply.

My own view is that we tend to think we are freer than we are, a delusion that most of us share with Vashti. We see the motes in the eyes of others, but not the logs in our own.
But maybe that's because I think of freedom in black and white terms - you either are free or you're not. Most people wouldn't want to be free - e.g. anarchy is widely used as a pejorative term.
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Old 02-02-2010, 04:59 AM   #51
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Originally Posted by Fledchen View Post
I wasn't part of the book club when the group read A Passage to India. I am interested in reading more of Forster's work. Would those of you who are familiar with Forster recommend A Passage to India, or something else to start?
I'd suggest perhaps A Room With a View. It's lighter, more positive, but also romantic - don't know whether that is a good or a bad thing A Passage to India is very much about class and race, and might be tougher to read. 'Room' is also PD, so you can download it for free. There's also two short story collections; The Celestial Omnibus and The Eternal Moment (they're both in Collected Short Stories). They would be worth considering, too - and long literary novel can bog you down - short stories may be easier to approach.
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Old 02-02-2010, 05:15 AM   #52
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(I switched around the paragraphs)
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Originally Posted by WT Sharpe View Post
Of course there will always be cultural, familial, ethical and social restrictions upon all who chose to live among other human beings; that goes almost without saying, and necessary limits upon our personal actions in so far as these actions affect other people with whom we come into contact.
....
Agreed. One has at the very least an obligation to feed and clothe and keep healthy one's body. Social systems, small and large, follows right after. To be completely free, you'd have to be either in incorporeal or dead.

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When I say freedom vs. security, I mean the freedom to live without unnecessary government intrusion upon our private lives; the freedom to choose how we live, how we express our religious sentiments or lack thereof, how we chose to seek happiness and contentment. The freedom I speak of is the freedom to criticize those government policies with which we disagree without fear of censorship or imprisonment such as occurs today in China, or death, as occurs today in Iraq, or banishment as in the former Soviet Union, or being hauled before committees and pressured to inform on like-minded friends and colleagues, as happened in the United States during the McCarthy era.
Just a note - being a citizen of a country with a welfare system - that while I can see that in theory, you may be more 'free' in USA, as in you have less of a social system, I have always felt more free in practise, as I have less to worry about (if I get sick, lose my job, that my (hypothetical) children get a good education, etc.) and probably more free time (in general) to pursue my own interests.

If I may drag in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, then it seems to me that the society I live in frees me (somewhat) from the lower needs and frees me to pursue the higher needs. Of course, if I lived in USA, I'd have more freedom to make a load of money and thus free myself that way. That's just not a universally realistic option - we can't all be that rich.

Not looking for a great discussion, as I think your position is equally valid. It's just something I wonder about, because I really don't understand it - I would guess you have as much problems understanding me I have been brought up with a set of morals and ethics that makes me believe that such a society is unfair and unequal and creates more human suffering than is 'necessary' now that we have means to do better.
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Old 02-02-2010, 07:08 AM   #53
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(I switched around the paragraphs)

Agreed. One has at the very least an obligation to feed and clothe and keep healthy one's body. Social systems, small and large, follows right after. To be completely free, you'd have to be either in incorporeal or dead.


Just a note - being a citizen of a country with a welfare system - that while I can see that in theory, you may be more 'free' in USA, as in you have less of a social system, I have always felt more free in practise, as I have less to worry about (if I get sick, lose my job, that my (hypothetical) children get a good education, etc.) and probably more free time (in general) to pursue my own interests.

If I may drag in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, then it seems to me that the society I live in frees me (somewhat) from the lower needs and frees me to pursue the higher needs. Of course, if I lived in USA, I'd have more freedom to make a load of money and thus free myself that way. That's just not a universally realistic option - we can't all be that rich.

Not looking for a great discussion, as I think your position is equally valid. It's just something I wonder about, because I really don't understand it - I would guess you have as much problems understanding me I have been brought up with a set of morals and ethics that makes me believe that such a society is unfair and unequal and creates more human suffering than is 'necessary' now that we have means to do better.
There will always be a tension between our personal rights and our obligations to others, but I agree with what you've said. There are certain obligations we all have to the common good, or as our own Constitution puts it, to "promote the general welfare." Not wishing to engage upon an extended debate upon the subject, I will say that it seems to me that this is an area in which the U.S. has largely failed to live up to it's potential. I would gladly pay more taxes if it meant financial security and health care for all, or as you put it, freedom from the lower needs. No one can enjoy their constitutional freedoms while worrying about from where their next meal will come.
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Old 02-02-2010, 12:11 PM   #54
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To return to - if not completely to 'The machine stops', but at least to Forster and the issue of freedom, I have a quote from Forster's 'Maurice' - thoughts by Maurice towards the end of the book where he/Forster ponders freedom and the lack of it:

"His new vigour persisted next morning, when he returned to work. Before his failure with Lasker Jones [tried to cure himself of homosexuality] he had looked forward to work as a privilege of which he was almost unworthy. It was to have rehabilitated him, so that he could hold up his head at home. But now it too crumbled, and again he wanted to laugh, and wondered why he had been taken in so long. The clientele of Messrs Hill and Hall [a stock-broker firm where our protagonist work] was drawn from the middle-middle classes, whose highest desire seemed shelter — continuous shelter — not a lair in the darkness to be reached against fear, but shelter everywhere and always, until the existence of earth and sky is forgotten, shelter from poverty and disease and violence and impoliteness; and consequently from joy; God slipped this retribution in. He saw from their faces, as from the faces of his clerks and his partners, that they had never known real joy. Society had catered for them too completely. They had never struggled, and only a struggle twists sentimentality and lust together into love. ..."

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Old 02-02-2010, 01:33 PM   #55
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To return to - if not completely to 'The machine stops', but at least to Forster and the issue of freedom, I have a quote from Forster's 'Maurice' - thoughts by Maurice towards the end of the book where he/Forster ponders freedom and the lack of it:

"His new vigour persisted next morning, when he returned to work. Before his failure with Lasker Jones [tried to cure himself of homosexuality] he had looked forward to work as a privilege of which he was almost unworthy. It was to have rehabilitated him, so that he could hold up his head at home. But now it too crumbled, and again he wanted to laugh, and wondered why he had been taken in so long. The clientele of Messrs Hill and Hall [a stock-broker firm where our protagonist work] was drawn from the middle-middle classes, whose highest desire seemed shelter — continuous shelter — not a lair in the darkness to be reached against fear, but shelter everywhere and always, until the existence of earth and sky is forgotten, shelter from poverty and disease and violence and impoliteness; and consequently from joy; God slipped this retribution in. He saw from their faces, as from the faces of his clerks and his partners, that they had never known real joy. Society had catered for them too completely. They had never struggled, and only a struggle twists sentimentality and lust together into love. ..."
Since he began writing that book in 1913, he must have ached to publish it, but never felt the times were right. It's ironic and sad that such an evidently profound lover of liberty never felt at liberty to show this side of himself to the world while he was alive.

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Old 02-02-2010, 02:57 PM   #56
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"... the middle-middle classes, whose highest desire seemed shelter — continuous shelter — not a lair in the darkness to be reached against fear, but shelter everywhere and always, until the existence of earth and sky is forgotten, shelter from poverty and disease and violence and impoliteness; and consequently from joy; God slipped this retribution in. He saw from their faces, as from the faces of his clerks and his partners, that they had never known real joy. Society had catered for them too completely. They had never struggled, and only a struggle twists sentimentality and lust together into love. ..."
Wow! That's a pretty accurate summary of the world of Vashti and Kuno.

Thanks for sharing Ea - great find!
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Old 02-02-2010, 03:03 PM   #57
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Wow! That's a pretty accurate summary of the world of Vashti and Kuno.
I think you can actually find this theme in most of Forster's work - my memory may be imperfect though - I haven't read Forster in 13-14 years, and I wasn't nearly as good at English (nor good at interpreting texts) then as I am now. I've gotten all excited about Forster again, after reading 'The machine stops'. I suddenly understand a lot more.
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Old 02-05-2010, 05:13 PM   #58
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I just came a across a blog post, comparing 'The machine stops' with 'Wall-E'

From here:
http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008...pixars-wall-e/

It was so short I'll just quote the whole thing:
Quote:
Machines Do Stop: E.M. Forster & Pixar’s WALL-E
Matthew Battles - July 1st, 2008

Pixar’s WALL-E, which opened in theaters across the country this weekend, breaks new ground in one respect: it’s a dystopian sci-fi epic with an unambiguously happy ending. Critics have noted the film’s debt to such science fiction classics as the seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey and Nick Park’s wacky claymation escapade, A Grand Day Out. But the Pixar film’s most thoroughly worked-out allusion, to a somewhat obscure short story by E. M. Forster, so far has gone unnoticed.

Well known among science fiction mavens, the 1909 Forster short story “The Machine Stops” is famous for its vision of eco-catastrophe and for its premonitory description of a system of worldwide media not unlike the Internet. The story’s text is widely available online, and has been anthologized in print as well.

As in WALL-E, “The Machine Stops” is set on a future Earth whose surface has been blasted into inhabitability by waste and pollution. Writing when radio was in its infancy, Forster (best known for his novel A Passage to India) imagined an intermediated hypercivilization in which people connect to one another through electronic screens—a videoconferencing dystopia unnervingly reminiscent of some of today’s social media. While WALL-E’s human population has escaped into space, in Forster’s tale they have created a vast subterranean civilization. In both stories, however, humanity has grown fat and sessile thanks to automated systems that serve their every need. Whisked from screen to screen in automated chairs, they’re unable to interact with the world without electronic mediation. And in both stories, the systems break down.

Although WALL-E and “The Machine Stops” come to seemingly opposite conclusions, both tales envision a belated reckoning with the wages of technological progress. I’ll leave it to readers to decide whether Forster’s bleak vision or Pixar’s more saccharine ending is persuasive—or if the likeliest outcome lies somewhere in between.
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Old 02-06-2010, 07:38 AM   #59
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I just read this review of the work of Lorrie Moore, and A Gate at the Stairs in particular. It refers to the themes of direct/indirect experience and mentions E.M. Forster.
(content warning: the article mentions some stuff that may be NSFW if someone is shoulder surfing, and the article is from a political publication with viewpoints that may chafe some MR members)

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091221/wallace-wells
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Old 02-07-2010, 06:59 PM   #60
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I just came a across a blog post, comparing 'The machine stops' with 'Wall-E'

From here:
http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008...pixars-wall-e/

It was so short I'll just quote the whole thing:
Now I regret not seeing Wall-E.
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