Title: Aspects of the Novel
Author: E.M. Forster
Genre: Literary Criticism
Length: 176 pages
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a very small child. So small that I don’t recall the first revelation or declaration. I simply always knew it was something I wanted to do one day. I also have always enjoyed books. I remember loving to read before I was even any good at it. I remember devouring books before my peers had even mastered their letters. This is not because I was smarter than them, not by a long shot. This is just how much passion I had for the idea of language and the written word.
Naturally, I also love books about writers writing… like Stephen King’s On Writing and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden Letters. I even like authors who get bossy about it like Umberto Eco and E.M. Forster. They deserve to be bossy, as they are brilliant.
I fell in love with E.M. Forster in high school when my favorite English teacher of all time told me to get a copy of Howards End. I remember devouring it almost over night and spending nearly a half hour after school discussing it with him. I remember being utterly blown away by Howards End for reasons I cannot even vaguely recall now, but things amaze you at sixteen for no particular reason at all, it is a habit I have tried to keep as I age too.
My debut as a novelist comes out this week – a novella, actually – called The Bookshop Hotel. I’m about halfway through writing the sequel, a book that will be a full length novel twice as long as the novella, and I’m already paranoid about potential reviews hailing my inferiority as a writer. So, I’m consulting one of my heroes for advice, writerly wisdom from the talented author of Howards End.
As I read Forster’s famous lectures, it is becoming clear to me that I will never be E.M. Forster, John Steinbeck, or even an Audrey Niffenegger! I will never be a best-selling New York Times sensation. I’m ok with that, it was never my intention to be infamous. I have other aspirations.
What I would like to do, though, is to tell a few good stories, make some income for my family, and have the satisfaction of stumbling across my books on shelves in unexpected places. That will be enough for me.
In the mean time, I’ll work as though my goal is to be the next Stephen King (on the prolific level anyway), because even though I am not the most talented, I don’t ever want to be accused of being half-assed. I’d rather be untalented than lazy.
So here I am on a Sunday night perusing Aspects of the Novel, munching on every tidbit, taking notes, wondering if Forster himself would have anything positive to say about my stories because the vital elements to a novel he points out are vital indeed and I’m unsure as to whether my characters can live up to that vitality.
“Forster’s casual and wittily acute guidance… transmutes the dull stuff of He-said and She-said into characters, stories, and intimations of truth,” Jacques Barzun is quoted. Let’s hope he’s right.
Whether it transforms me into something wonderful or not, the book is amazing. Every student of literature, lover of books, or budding author should give this one a go. Then again, I am partial, remember, I fell in love with Forster ages ago.