Blowhard, Esq. writes:
Curiosity is one of the lowest of the human faculties. You will have noticed in daily life that when people are inquisitive they nearly always have bad memories and are usually stupid at bottom. The man who beings by asking you how many brothers and sisters you have, is never a sympathetic character, and if you meet him in a year’s time he will probably ask you how many brothers and sisters you have, his mouth again sagging open, his eyes still bulging from his head. It is difficult to be friends with such a man, and for two inquisitive people to be friends must be impossible. Curiosity by itself takes us very little way, nor does it take us far into the novel — only as far as the story.
— E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
Given that quote, it probably won’t surprise you that Forster isn’t much of a fan of story, either. I’ve been browsing through this collection of lectures Forster gave on fiction and the chapters on “story” and “plot” in particular deserve a takedown.
That isn’t a very endearing quote, is it? A billion years ago, I enjoyed reading Forster, but these days running across a passage like that one from him would really put me off. The contempt many literary types have for story is pure (and not very likable) snobbery. “We, of course, have MUCH more important things on our minds than engaging and involving you in a mere tale … Patooie, patooie.”
He drips with contempt at the very idea someone would be enamored with story more than literature. Yeah, really off-putting and what’s more, I don’t think he even knows what he’s talking about. I’ll post more about this later.
Looking forward to it. I think many lit types have no real idea what they’re sneering at when they sneer at “story.”
I thought you might both enjoy this essay on Forster from one of my favorite literary critics, Joseph Epstein: http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/passage-forster?page=1
Foesti just alerted me to your blog — I love it so far!!!
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