Aspects of the Novel

Mike Parish

On the sly, I’ve been reading E. M. Forster’s, Aspects of the Novel (1927). I’m not quite sure what I think about this book.

E. M. Forster takes the title of his book very seriously. He goes as far as to say each “section” should actually be considered as an “aspect.” I find this to be antiquated and awkward. As a reader, I’m finding that a lot of pre-World War II books contain a similar awkwardness (or maybe it’s a formalness) in prose style, and I guess this aspect should be chalked up to the differences between contemporary styles and styles of the past.

Beyond that, I don’t know much about E. M. Forster but he seems to know his stuff.

I’m not sure how well this book speaks to modern readers and writers; I find myself torn between agreeing wholeheartedly with Forster and wanting to drop his book in the space the subway train makes with the platform as it slides into the station.

There’s definitely something to be gleaned from reading Aspects of the Novel, but what exactly that is I’m still trying to figure out.

The beginning of Forster’s second aspect, “The Story”:

“We shall all agree that the fundamental aspect of the novel is its story-telling aspect, but we shall voice our assent in different tones, and it is on the precise tone of voice we employ now that our subsequent conclusions will depend.”

And the beginning of the fourth, “People (continued)”:

“We now turn from transplantation to acclimatization. We have discussed whether people could be taken out of life and put into a book, and conversely whether they could come out of books and sit down in this room. The answer suggested was in the negative and led to a more vital question: can we, in daily life, understand each other?”

The copy I am reading is much older than the edition pictured and I wonder how differently my perception would have been had the “oh, so symmetrical” cover above graced my eyes at first glance. What would have happened if I had taken out the other copy on the library’s shelf, the one whose spine was taped together with crumbling scotch tape, whose pages were stained with what looked to be blood, the copy which was probably the original first pressing from 1927?

Thanks to Google images, it’s clear to me that Penguin should hold onto whomever’s head of their art department.

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