Thursday, June 28, 2012
return to story
"For the more we look at the story . . . the more we disentangle it from the finer growths that it supports, the less shall we find to admire. It runs like a backbone--or may I say a tapeworm, for its beginning and end are arbitrary. It is immensely old--goes back to neolithic times, perhaps to paleolithic. . . . The primitive audience was an audience of shock-heads, gaping round the campfire, fatigued with contending against the mammoth or the wooly rhinoceros, and only kept awake by suspense. What would happen next? The novelist droned on, and as soon as the audience guessed what happened next, they either fell asleep or killed him."
This excerpt is from E. M. Forster's "Aspects of the Novel" that came highly recommended by various authors. I'm not yet sure why it is held in such high esteem, although I've only begun. Maybe I'm one of those simple neanderthals referenced above? Since I do not have a literary background--no college or literature courses under my belt--many of his references are beyond me and, I admit, of little interest. I read, and write, for enjoyment, expression (of self or see that in others), and to obtain various levels of knowledge from mundane to mystical to life-changing, and in reciprocity, to share what bits I've learned of life that may help someone else on their journey. Forster seems a bit arrogant and judgmental, however, the volume is thin, written in 1927 so of a different age, and I am, in spite of myself, intrigued to read what else Forster has to say about writing a novel.
All that said, I do realize, even at this point, that what Forster is apparently trying to get across in this portion of his lectures is that a novel is far, far more than just a story in a timeline. And that readers are different than the listeners of by-gone eras.