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Posts Tagged ‘20th Century British Literature’

Forster’s little jewel, replete with books no longer interesting and novels no longer read, offers excellent pointers for a fledgling writer. His variations on the types of novelists and their particular bent in this world, for instance the “anxious rather than an ardent psychologist.”, could potentially striate and almost pigeon-hole every novelist until the time of publication of Aspects, which was in 1927.  Forster imagines a room where every novelist is stooped over his pen and busy writing. This throwing out of chronology, somewhat puts all novelists on a level field. He quotes Melville, gives us Richardson and James to read and then differentiates between the pair as if they had just published a book on the same day. How interesting this is to read because of the dearth of good novels being published today. If some of these post-moderns were set alongside Dickens or Balzac I do believe they would be crying and running for the exit.  But enough of the slim, easy pickings on of contemporary writers. Now we must see what Forster actually says about one of these novels.

Forster, at his cuttingest, says that “Ulysses…is a dogged attempt to cover the universe with mud, it is an inverted Victorianism, an attempt to make crossness and dirt succeed where sweetness and light failed, a simplification of the human character in the interests of Hell. …the aim of which is to degrade all things and more particularly civilization and art, by turning them inside out and upside down.” I wholly agree with this rendering of Ulysses. I find it somewhat boring and well, overly-written. If Joyce was attempting to kill the novel at the very least he shouldn’t have attempted to graft so much on to it. He could have starved it like the Pulps and crime fiction were doing at the time. Ulysses is largely unintelligible to the average reader and one would need a higher level undergrad class to make it through a first reading. Was that Joyce’s intent to sling mud in the face of the reader? If so I believe he has survived on what will almost too soon be a hundred-year anniversary.

If you happen to pick up Aspects of the Novel I know you will be pleasantly surprised by Forster’s meanings and interpretations of different novelists and novels. Happy Reading.

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This is a funny, yet at times deadly serious book. The contempt Brenda develops for John Last verges on heartbreaking and the love she maintains for John Beaver is pathetic. Why can’t one just accept their situation and get on with it, so to speak. But that would not seem to be what Waugh was getting at in this novel. Yeah one could harp (A different one than that of the prior sentence, ostensibly) about the class strictures and the cloying of Mr. and the Mrs. Beaver about climbing the rungs but that would be less than astute. What we should focus on is the pain that is created by Waugh. It is almost painful to read all about the failure of a marriage, yet in that quasi-painful state these characters begin to form. Tony reacts like the good fellow he is and retreats to another hemisphere to get away from his wife. John Beaver, well there isn’t much to say about this half-wit, except that he is an imbecile and slightly proud of it. The kissing scene in the novel is borderline hysterical and one knows just how experienced this guy is after about one sentence. The feigned, or is it, pain of Jock Grant-Menzies after the little boy John is killed could drive one to tears if one was so inclined. The rushing around of the Beaver and Brenda and the little fiasco by the sea are all painful to read. But this isn’t a story to include the reader, no it is more like a distant tale told by the fire to a disinterested audience. For that is what one becomes after so long. One can’t emotionally invest  in these characters because they can’t invest in themselves.

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Charles Ryder the ever suffering artist and protagonist of Brideshead Revisited reaches his logical conclusion and peak of character development in the following excerpt:

I heard her say that; it was the sort of thing she had the habit of saying.  Throughout our married life, again and again, I had felt my bowels shrivel within me at the things she said. But that day, in this gallery, I heard unmoved, and suddenly realized that she was powerless to hurt me any more; I was a free man; she had given me my manumission in that brief, sly lapse of hers; my cuckold’s horns made me lord of the forest.

Here Mr. Ryder becomes what he was destined to be, a willful, liberty-loving man.  For me I don’t really see any overriding theme to the novel.  Of course there is the issue of faith that is so leadenly hanging over the entire novel.  But since Ryder has no qualms in picking up any faith then I really don’t understand why all of the tertiary characters must have crises of faith throughout the book.  All one can obtain from Mr. Waugh’s novel, aside from the fact that the British probably used the term “White Trash” first, is that being aristocratic in Britain in the first half of the 20th century wasn’t all peaches and cream. Besides the all-consuming depressive quality of the novel I must add that it is supremely well written and definitely a must read from Waugh’s ouevre.

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