Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beauty in Truth - Ugliness in Use

"A Room with a View" is one of those essential chick-flick-y things, eh? Never having seen the movie, and being computer-less and in want of some occupation (I am using a computer now, thanks to the generosity of a housemate), I picked up the novel by E.M. Forster and started reading.

May I just say: Bleh! Bleh! Bleh!

Forster is on my poo-list of writers! He's so full of his own writing that he completely neglects the characters - they're these rough cutouts of people who do and say things that no one would say or do because Forster HAS A VISION GOSHDARNIT and his characters WILL LEAD SO TOTALLY UP TO THAT VISION WHETHER IT'S NATURAL TO THEIR CHARACTER OR NO.

What is good literature? Good literature, I'd posit, has something to do with eternity - characters grapple, in their own way, as best they can, not necessarily with explicit great questions (because, remember, a character approaches these questions *in their own way* which may be either dim and obscure or clear and exact) but with questions that touch on the nature and destiny of man. Why else is Wiseblood so interesting? Or the LOTR? Or Crime and Punishment? Is it because we see that the author is driving home a point and operating his characters like puppets or is it because a character is articulating an understanding of the universe which, even if wrong, allows us to react against or with it - or to hold ourselves back and remain neutral? Good literature never becomes stale because great questions (who am I? Where am I going? Does God exist? What is evil?) never become stale and a sensitive and subtle approach to them simply sets a question off brilliantly and gently. Further, the reader is left to form their own opinion regarding whatever is being treated of - even Fielding, who loved to interject himself into his novels, simply entreated the reader to this or that view rather than commanding them to it.

It's not good literature to approach A question, make it THE question, and cause ALL your characters to behave as if it WERE the question and to expect the reader to sympathize. It may or may not be THE question, but there are sure to be disagreements among any character remotely resembling a human being. Otherwise, t'ain't art, it's propaganda. So, don't, Mr. Author Dear, force YOUR idea down the throats of your characters - let them BE, for goodness sake, and, if you're a good writer, you will wind up where you want to be at the end because the characters will still be imbued with you but in a more natural way that respects the characters and the reader.

A Room with a View gets my "never read this trash" vote.

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