A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster
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A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  168 ratings  ·  32 reviews
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

Finalist for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

ALA Stonewall Honor Book

Finalist for James Tait Black Memorial Prize

E. M. Forster’s homosexuality was the central fact of his life. Between Wilde’s imprisonment and the Stonewall riots, Forster led a long, strange, and imaginative life as a gay man. He preserved a vas...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Picador (first published January 1st 2010)
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James Murphy
When researching her biography, Wendy Moffat tells us, Christopher Isherwood, a lifelong friend of E. M. Forster, advised her, "Unless you start with the fact that he was homosexual, nothing's any good at all." Moffat took that to heart. In doing so she gives us a different biography from what we might have expected. Forster was the novelist who wrote such critically-acclaimed and influential novels as Howard's End and A Passage to India. He was a don of Cambridge, lecturer, friend of Leonard an...more
Shawn Thrasher
E.M. Forster's fiction is superbly interesting, humorous, tragic at times. His life, seen through Moffat's gay lens, is similarly interesting, darkly funny, tragic but also uplifting. Mofat's book is an almost hagiography of a gay saint. Forster certainly (and rightly) comes out as a gay hero by the end of the book (he certainly knew every famous gay from 1900-1970). He more or less lived a an openly gay life, in a time when doing so meant losing everything. Moffat's doesn't really pull any punc...more
This book is just amazing. Wendy Moffat has done a terrific job, brilliantly researched and so sensitive to the interior life of the 20th century homo. Academic biography aside, Moffat creates a compelling polemic on the damage a narrow minded society imposes on gay men and women. "Yes, yes, I remember feeling that," I would say as the author parsed the homophobia that caused Forster so much suffering and distraction. Things are different now, I would tell Morgan, knowing he would be pleased wit...more
Esta é a biografia "escondida" de E. M. Forster, em que a vida e a obra do grande autor são vistas (pela primeira vez?) à luz da sua homossexualidade. John Sutherland, na Literary Review, pergunta-se sobre esta biografia de Forster: «Será que quero mesmo saber isto tudo?» e prossegue: «Em minha opinião, este livro mancha a obra de Forster. Não podemos ficar gratos por isso. Mas Moffat (a autora da biografia) fez um trabalho detalhado, e esta é, de certa forma, uma "nova vida"». Uma nova vida que...more
I thought this book was really good. Granted, it combined two of my favorite topics: literary biography and gay culture. I think Moffat did an excellent job of showing Forster's tenderness, empathy, intelligence and sincere search for true happiness. Also, I did not expect to be as inspired and touched by his personal story as I was. In the face of a society that was at best dismissive of his struggles and sexuality, Forster wrote movingly about having effectively no sexual experience until almo...more
This is an excellent biography of E.M. Forster delving into his inner thoughts about his life and his homosexuality. Born on January 1, 1879, he died at age 91 in the summer of 1970. His one novel with a gay theme, Maurice, was written in 1914, but remained unpublished until his death. The saddest part was that he always felt himself unattractive and unworthy of love. It was only at age 37 that he finally experienced a physical relationship. He did have many friendships and acquaintances includi...more
Darin Keesler
--- a beautiful, inspiring portrait of a great novelist and a kind, loving man with a talent for friendship . . JR Ackerly, Isherwood, DH Lawrence, Paul Cadmus, Benjamin Britten, Cavafy, and Christopher Isherwood counted among his many friends and acquaintances . . . an entertaining history of gay life and British literature over the course of the first half of the 20th Century.
Bit dry but does give quite a bit of insight as to why he was such a gifted writer.
Is art born out of hysteria? Or does sexual fulfillment kill the creative urges? In Forster's case, he wrote a handful of great novels while still in denial and in the closet (which seems to have been located in the home he shared with his domineering mom - obviously). After Forster came to terms with his homosexuality, he seems to have become a slightly creepy ageing queen who preyed on ostenstibly straight younger men from the lower social orders and replaced his creative urges with a quick wa...more
Emanuela ~plastic duck~
Very good at the beginning, up until the 30%, then it became less focused, especially the period about the second New York trip. It became to centered on Forster's circle of friends than on his impression on America. There were some parts which made me very emotional, they were so delicate and moving, but there was also a detachment that I feel sometimes even the best biographer has to abandon. The last pages were beautiful. The book gave me an insight about Forster that I didn't have when I rea...more
An incredibly well-researched biography of E.M. Forster—and when I say “well-researched” I also mean the research doesn’t get in the way of the story. The book focuses on Forster’s homosexuality and his long journey from isolation to friendship and love. Forster struggled with (not against) his inclinations during a time that homosexuality was not only an underground activity, but also a crime that led to prison and social exclusion. Additionally, Forster was engaged with men of a different clas...more
Biographies are always a bit of a challenge. Even remarkable people can have pretty dull everyday lives. E.M.Forster did associate with a very colorful bunch of writers, artists, and academics, and until I read this book, I knew absolutely nothing about him except his wonderful novels. Unfortunately, elements of his private life led him to give up novel writing early on, and he wrote mostly essays and reviews in his later years. I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for him-he had many friends,bu...more
Christopher Fox
Forster was thoroughly and determinately gay. Moffat makes abundantly clear that this fact informed and shaped every aspect of Forster's private and professional life from first tentative thoughts to final comfort. By surrounding her portrait of his life with the societal events that he experienced, she exhibits her wonderfully engaging gift of combining thorough, sympathetic scholarship with a strong narrative style expressed with an obvious love for words, all very much a tribute to her subjec...more
Chuck Lowry
This was an easy read and very informative. I would have liked some comparative information. I had the impression that homosexuality was so ingrained at Oxbridge that unless one sought some official preferment, e.g. a Regius chair or headship of a college, it was not a big deal. If the author is to be believed--and the evidence is compelling--for Forester it was a big deal. Was it so for others, or was he, for whatever reason, more reticent than his circumstances might have sensu stricto require...more
Michael Burge
An unbeatable biography of the elusive Forster - even the range of photographs will include many which the most keen Forsterians will never have seen. The best thing Moffat does is finish off the outing that Forster himself began when he wrote Maurice in pre WW1 Britain, allowing his entire canon (and his sudden literary silence) to be seen in the light of a long, emergent sexuality.
Este livro é o resultado de um tremendo trabalho de investigação e reconstituição documental da vida de E. M. Forster, através dos seus livros (com "Maurice" como ponto de partida) e vasta correspondência privada. Pergunto-me sobre o que poderá ter levado a autora a empreender tamanho exercício biográfico, mas depois de o ler, a estranheza dá lugar à gratidão. Descobrir e seguir, pela mão de Moffat, o percurso de vida de Forster é tão fascinante quanto revelador.
Having read the PN Furbank biography of Forster many years ago I thought I wouldn't want/need to read another, but this was a very good read, focussing more on his life as a gay man than the Furbank (which was very honest and open even so). This one is quite a bit shorter, and sometimes it breezes along making it appear to be ignoring events, but the novels are all covered in good detail, and his most important relationships and friendships.
Jean Kelly
The author uses the record left behind by E. M. Forster that is testimony of how he saw his homosexuality as the essence of his creative life. The many years when he wasn't publishing any more, he never stopped writing but knew his work couldn't be published in his lifetime. One can't help but wonder what his legacy would have been in a different age.
Interesting and refreshingly different biography of one my favorite writers.

"To spare the three ladies on the committee (and the young women who compiled its deliberations), Sir John decided to use euphemisms--and so homosexuals and prostitutes were dutifully recorded in the committee minutes as Huntleys and Palmers, after the famous biscuits."
Phil Mullen
I learned a great deal more about E M Forster, whose books I'd not read (though I'd seen the movies of them). Much of his life was sad (in that extremely closeted 19th c. way), & I realized anew how great the changes have been in my lifetime for LGBT persons.

Like a good bio., this one sent me to the novels themselves.
Beautifully written and both a moving portrait of one of my favourite humans ever and gay life in the early-to-mid 20th century. I can't imagine the sort of archival research needed to make a book like this, but now I want to go to Kings College and read through his war notebook and see the letters, etc.
The combination of a focused thesis neglected or soft-sold by previous biographers and/or critics, excellent research, and excellent prose make this the best nonfiction thus far in 2010. I believe this book merits significant literary award.
Shannon K
Wonderfully written and unexpectedly engaging. I learned so much and really enjoyed reading, especially since I know how much love and work went into this fascinating biography that's turning everybody's heads. Congratulations, Wendy Moffat!
Having not read any of Forster's work, I still found this biography to be interesting and touching. I feel as if I will have more insight into the the man behind the text when I start to read Maurice.
Incredible. A great biography of a man, a writer, an era. And the last page, with its posthumous revelation and note on how the biography was written were unexpected and moving.
Greg Wolfson
Great, deep, sensitive. Gives you a deep sense of the world of creative people who surrounded and were influenced by Forster. Wonderful read!
Michael Clark
Heard author speak, amazing research and scholarship in focuing on Forsters life that he lived boldly, but as of yet was not explored fully.
Lynn Kearney
An interesting and entertaining life of this most elusive of the Bloomberries.
almost finished with Maugham but could not wait to start on Forster's life.
Without question, the best bio out there on Forster..
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Wendy Moffat is a Professor of English at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania where she teaches on modern British fiction, the history and theory of narrative, sexuality, modernism, and British culture.

She earned her PhD in English literature from Yale University.
More about Wendy Moffat...
A Visit to Priapus and Other Stories

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