Wednesday, February 02, 2005

E.M. Forster's books always surprise me. One is so easily lulled by his gentle prose, by the eccentric characters going about their odd but pleasant lives, and then suddenly things happen with an abruptness that makes one realize just how shocking they are. Howards End is no exception--I was going to give an example, but don't want to spoil it for anyone. To be circumspect, great milestones of life suddenly surge up in a brief sentence that might almost be missed by the reader, just as those involved in such a situation might almost go on without noticing, then be brought back stunned by what has happened. Forster writes these things just as they might occur, blending into the rest of life until the shock hits after the fact.

I like this way of writing, that acknowledges how little there actually is to say about a sudden death, or a kiss, or the discovery of a hidden pregnancy--far more details are to be found in a conversation between friends, or a stroll down London streets, or the covert glances among family members concealing a secret. Life is lived in these small moments, not in the great occurences, and what we do in crises is merely a reaction based on the character built during the details and mundanity of every day.

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