July Books 2) Collected Short Stories by E.M. Forster

2) Collected Short Stories, by E.M. Forster

I’m ashamed to say that the only one of Forster’s novels I have actually read is The Longest Journey, though I have seen film versions of A Passage to India, A Room With A View and Howard’s End, which all came out at a time in my life when I saw more films than I do now. I knew that one of these stories is “The Machine Stops”, a riposte to H.G. Wells’ visions of a mechanised future, but I expected the rest to be vignettes in Forster’s distinctive but generally naturalistic aesthetic style. I was therefore surprised to find that of the twelve stories, ten can be classified as fantasy (and “The Machine Stops” as science fiction) with only the last one, “The Eternal Moment” having no overtly unrealistic elements. And they are interesting stories, too, sometimes giving a wicked spin to traditional concepts of death and the afterlife, sometimes just being wicked. I hadn’t really considered Forster as a genre writer before, so it was quite a revelation.

One trick he does rather well is the unreliable narrator – a couple of his viewpoint characters are overconfident men who reveal enough of themselves that the reader can be sure that the writer does not sympathise with them. I hope this isn’t flogging a dead horse, but reminded me a couple of days ago of why I have found other uses of the “unreliable narrator” so unsatisfactory, if there is no discernible hint that (to adapt Achebe’s phrase about Conrad) the character enjoys anything less than the author’s complete confidence. Forster can drop those hints entirely discernibly without damaging the integrity (or readability) of his narrative; one of the things that makes him a great writer.

One thought on “July Books 2) Collected Short Stories by E.M. Forster

  1. ps tho I,m not sure Scott was taking it v seriously, from what i recall of it via the Scottish lit sector..

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