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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Friday, December 25, 2009

James v. Forster - The Showdown

Yesterday read an essay (review?) re Forster, which pointed out that Forster loved War and Peace (obviously) and that James thought is was a sprawling mass (mess?) of a novel. Also, obviously. And which writer was correct? Which of them had to better sense of what qualities make up a great novel? Which had a better sense of what qualities make up a great life? (Same thing?) Much as I admire James and have loved some of his work - I would say especially the novellas, which he probably considered to be short stories - look at the direction he took as his work matured. The later novels are so inward, self-centered, interior, technical as to be virtually unreadable. (I couldn't read them, or finish them.) And Forster, each of his is about people, society, culture, relationships, ethical choices, about life - and it seems as if he built toward Passage to India, a culmination, and then had nothing more to say (at least in the format of the novel), and so he stopped, and I admire him for that, too. He saw in War and Peace all the greatness that was there, in spite of its flaws and its abundance. And James couldn't look into the heart of this novel and respond to the magnificence and beauty. He was cold to War and Peace like he was cold to life, sadly, tragically. Or, more accurately, distant and analytic and removed rather than engaged.

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