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Concerning E. M. Forster Hardcover – December 8, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Noted literary critic Kermode (Shakespeare's Language) presents in part his 2007 Clark lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, given eight decades after Forster's own Clark lectures (published as Aspects of the Novel) and in part a causerie (a loosely organized sequence of observations), in which Forster is reduced in size, placed in a wider context, and occasionally scolded. Kermode provides erudite and good-humored insights into Forster's artistic philosophies, plus deft analyses of the techniques of Forster's contemporaries, such as Henry James (whose style Forster disliked), Virginia Wolfe, Ford Madox Ford and Forster favorite Marcel Proust. Enlarging on Benjamin Britten's remark that Forster was our most musical novelist, Kermode shows how musical transformation and return of phrases was an art he practiced with success in his novels. Kermode makes the case that Forster's homosexuality was the reason for his long abstention from fiction and establishes that Forster placed himself in a cultivated minority above the working classes. Kermode is a delightful mentor for readers wishing to reflect not only on Forster's creativity but on the personal and social circumstances that restricted it. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Praise for Pieces of my Mind

"[Kermode's] essays and reviews . . . are a model of disinterested intelligence, fueled by a lifetime of reading and learning." —William H. Pritchard, Chicago Tribune

"A sane, steady voice in English letters . . . What distinguishes [Kermode] is his sheer range of interests. Never a period specialist, he ranged freely over the whole of literature, just as keen on the hurly-burly of Elizabethan England as he is on writers of the modern period . . . An exemplary close reader, who can tease out a given work's most subtle frequencies." —Matthew Price, The Boston Globe

Praise for Shakespeare’s Language

"A magnificent book, the honey of a lifetime's visits to the Shakespearean garden . . . Superb." —James Wood, The New Republic

"A sane, canny, steadily informative book." —Brad Leithauser, The New York Times Book Review
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (December 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374298998
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374298999
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,463,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sir Frank Kermode has been a prominent figure in the world of literary criticism since the 1960s. He has been King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge and Professor of Poetry at Harvard. He was knighted in 1991.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Charlus on January 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not since Lionel Trilling has such an eminent critic weighed in on EM Forster. The first half of the book consists of the three Clark Lectures Kermode gave at Cambridge, Forster's alma mater, and are clearly meant as formal pieces, each touching upon a different Forsterian topic. The first concerns Forster's series of Clark lectures that were also collected into a book: "Aspects of the Novel". The second explores musicality of Forster, both in his prose (his leitmotifs, strongly influenced by Wagner), his writing about music (the Beethoven in "Howard's End", the opera in "Where Angels Fear to Tread", the piano piece in "A Room With A View") as well as his collaboration with Britten. Finally Kermode touches on what he feels is Forster's masterpiece, "A Passage To India" and how hard he worked to be vague yet believable in order to create the sense of mystery and the unknowable at the heart of that novel.

The second half is a freely flowing (and truth be told at times mildly repetitive) discourse of topics of interest to Kermode about Forster and allows him to be a bit more critical,exploring the strengths as well as the perceived weaknesses (e.g. Forster's condescension to a character such as Leonard Bast). This part is less carefully argued but in a way even richer, as it lets Kermode have free reign over what interests him: Edward Carpenter's influence, the role of Bloomsbury and Forster's relationship with Virginia Woolf, Forster's strengths and limitations as a literary critic, etc.

The whole book is unbelievably stimulating, like having a conversation with an amazingly learned man (which Kermode obviously is) about a writer you both love, even if your own is unstinting and his comes with reservations.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on September 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
Forster liked the moralism of H.G. Wells better than Henry James. To Forster WAR AND PEACE was the greatest of all novels. James called it a baggy monster. In ASPECTS OF THE NOVEL Forster distinguishes story from plot. Forster accepted models for his fiction in the works of Flaubert, Maupassant, Turgenev. He admired Proust. Forster didn't analyze THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford and its use of an unreliable narrator.

Greatness interested Forster. Benjamin Britten claimed that Forster was the most musical novelist of his place and time. A piece by Forster on George Crabbe inspired Britten to write his first opera, PETER GRIMES. Forster collaborated on the libretto for BILLY BUDD. Britten liked Forster's treatment of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony in HOWARD'S END. Wagner crops up in THE LONGEST JOURNEY. Forster told the PARIS REVIEW that in novel writing he preferred creative accident to conscious forethought.

Lionel Trilling remarked that Forster refused greatness. Forster at different times considered whether Virginia Woolf, Andre Gide, and Edward Carpenter were great. Forster laments that there is no religion, no philosophy in the novels of Henry James. Forster is interested in the superhuman. In the second part of the book, Kermode looks at E.M. Forster's life as an artist.

One thinks of Forster as primarily the writer of five novels. At the time of his death in 1970 he was still famous. Of his contemporaries only Bertrand Russell outlived him. Publication of ROOM WITH A VIEW and HOWARD'S END elevated Forster to a select company. Finally, A PASSAGE TO INDIA was considered a modern classic. He had been an obscure young man. He never experienced poverty. His adult clique came out of Cambridge, (King's College and the Apostles).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Jacobson on March 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are a fan of E. M. Forster, you will enjoy this book. Frank Kermode gives his own critique of Forster's Aspects of a Novel and adds his thoughts on Forster's novels, especially Passage to India. He obviously enjoys Forster's works, but can still step away enough to relate some criticism. Kermode has an easy writing style, scholarly but not overshadowed with pretension. For lovers of Forster, this book will broaden your appreciation.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Mailer on May 28, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Frank Kermode is one of our most reliable and intelligent literary critics. This insightful study of E.M. Forster written in clear and objective prose is a delight to read. Kermode offers a fascinating view into the main concerns of this novelist and his craftsmanship. Brilliant, quirky, outspoken, but always fascinating, E. M. Forster is a writer whose exploration of human relations in his novels always rewards the patient reader. Frank Kermode's little book guides us into Forster's world so that we can begin to appreciate its breadth and scope. It is also a valuable, generous guide to other opinions of Forster's life and status among English writers.
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By maria teresa chialant on September 15, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An important critical contribution on Forster.
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