Mohit Parikh's Reviews > Aspects of the Novel

Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster
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Sep 09, 11

bookshelves: lit-non-fiction
Read from August 09 to September 02, 2011

E M Forester is a remarkable man. Astute. And that's what makes Aspects of the Novel so compelling.

The book is a compilation of lectures, delivered in Trinity College, Cambridge in 1927, on what he considers universal aspects of the novel: story, characters, plot, fantasy, prophecy, pattern, and rhythm.
The lectures are unique and insightful. Had I not lost my book immediately after finishing it I would have loved to quote several of his shrewd, profound and appealing conclusions here.
What still remains with me is a) his emphasis, that writing novel is an art and can not be contained within the boundaries erected by rules and tricks of the 'craft'. In fact, his criticism for the two other contemporary works: Craft of Fiction and Art of Novel ('Yes, but which novel?,' he asks) in the appendix amused me most. And b) his lucid distinction between, and the explanation of the difference in effects of, a story and a plot (If it is in a story we say “and then?” If it is in a plot we say “why?”). These are extremely valuable lectures for a writer of fiction like me who wants to keep his readers hooked.

Even though there is a lot learned as a writer and a critic/reader from this book, I have awarded it only three stars for two main reasons:
1. The lectures rely heavily on assuming (or expecting, reasonably so) an audience that has read Tristram Shandy, The Ambassadors by Henry James, Moby Dick, War and Peace,The Bleak House, Meredith's works (all of which I haven't read) and some then famous, now obscure 19th century works. I could not, thus, participate in the many extensive discussions - extensive by the length of the lectures.
2. The lectures on Prophecy and Fantasy, the central common trait in the novels as per the speaker, are outdated. Describing the spiritual elements in fiction through his definitions does not seem to be necessary anymore. Even if you take the time element out, these two lectures still remain vague, and neither readers nor literary critics benefit from them.

It is a series of lectures that literary students won't like to miss. An I-Ching for literary critics and for those of us who are searching religiously for a book of (literary) wisdom.
A piece of advice: be well acquainted with the 19th century works first to make the most of the book.
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Reading Progress

08/10/2011 page 40
21.0% "Interesting point: 'see a novel as not consecrated by time, but beyond time...' Analyze all the novelists as if they were sitting in the same room (free from time and province)"
08/16/2011 page 63
33.0% "Can we say difference between History and a Novel is the emphasis on fatality - in history external causes bind people, in novel internal causes motivate the actions(hence a consistency of actions with character psyche)?"
08/31/2011 page 124
65.0% "Chapter on Fantasy outdated?"
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Tanuj Solanki have u bought it? If you've a e-copy pls share it with me

Mohit Parikh Have bought it... had an ebook too, just mailed.

Tanuj Solanki I have downloaded Tristam Shandy. Kundera talks about him too in his "The Art of the Novel".

Mohit Parikh Its length intimidates me. How was 'The Art of the Novel'?

Tanuj Solanki I don't have the book. I have read only the first essay - about the history of the European novel - and fount it very moving, more than anything else. The perspicacity in Kundera's writing is there. Expanded my reading list: included people like Musil, Broch, Handke in it.

Actually, I think I willjust walk to the bookstore next to my house and read one more essay :)

Mohit Parikh :)

Tanuj Solanki I read two more. There is a thrill in finishing a book in a bookstore, where you are actually supposed to buy it. The book does not teach you as much to write as it teaaches you about the history of the novel, or Kundera's version of it. At times, I found it more entertaining than a taut novel.

message 8: by Bad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bad Horse You have an appendix? My copy is pretty new, and doesn't!

I didn't understand why you said, "Describing the spiritual elements in fiction through his definitions does not seem to be necessary anymore." If by "unnecessary" you mean that people have lost sight of the fact that books can do that, I'd say that's all the more reason to go back and recall what "fantasy" used to mean.

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