Ah, Englishness

March 11, 2008 § 1 Comment

Now reading: A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster.

I am reading this for two reasons:

a) I never gave A Room with a View a fair shake in college and I’ve always felt I owed Forster another chance.

b) Ray Bradbury called this the perfect novel or some such.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Forster is English with a vengeance.  I’ve grown more patient with that fussy British parsing of every single dull social interaction’s subtext, although it’s still definitely here and still has the power to get on my nerves occasionally.  But the book seems to be building to something more interesting here; I’m enjoying the interactions between the naive, young Miss Quested (that’s right, quested) and the older but adventuresome Mrs. Moore and the Indians they desire to learn about.  (I’m also enjoying ignoring, for the moment, all those grating sirens in my head blaring Colonial oppressor’s literature!  Colonial oppressor’s literature!, at least until I figure out what Forster’s trying to say.)

Right now, Forster seems to be setting up a romance between Miss Quested and a Mr. Fielding, the principal of the “little Government College,” who are both determined to be decent to the natives (unlike Ronny Heaslop, Quested’s semi-betrothed and Mrs. Moore’s son, of whom his mother says, “Englishmen like posing as gods.”)  I hope to gods that’s not what we’re leading to here, at least not as the focus of the book.  Please let it be a subplot.  Please let it be a subplot…

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§ One Response to Ah, Englishness

  • Jeanne Roman says:

    I haven’t been able to get through Passage yet. I just re-read Room with a View again…like you, I didn’t ‘give it a fair shake’ in college or grad school. But I have to say, I enjoyed it so much I got the Merchant-Ivory film from the 80s which is now one of my favorite movies. Yes, the “Englishness” may be a bit exaggerated (?) but perhaps Forster did it on purpose. He was more of an ex-pat when he wrote 4 out of his 5 novels and it probably shows. Pretty encouraging that he wrote the first 4 novels before he was 32… time to sit down and write!

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