03 December 2009


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 5

Lucy faced the situation bravely, though, like most of us, she only faced the situation that encompassed her. She never gazed inwards. If at times strange images rose from the depths, she put them down to nerves. When Cecil brought the Emersons to Summer Street, it had upset her nerves. Charlotte would burnish up past foolishness, and this might upset her nerves. She was nervous at night. When she talked to George--they met again almost immediately at the Rectory--his voice moved her deeply, and she wished to remain near him. How dreadful if she really wished to remain near him! Of course, the wish was due to nerves, which love to play such perverse tricks upon us . . .

It is obvious enough for the reader to conclude, "She loves young Emerson." A reader in Lucy's place would not find it obvious. Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice, and we welcome "nerves" or any other shibboleth that will cloak our personal desire. She loved Cecil; George made her nervous; will the reader explain to her that the phrases should have been reversed?

I'm very sorry that I didn't put up an Open Thread last Thursday. My Thanksgiving post took precedence, but everything is back to normal again. =)

1. I chose the above passage because I still remember the first time I read how obvious it supposedly is to a reader that Lucy is in love with George. I didn't think it was obvious at all! Did you?

2. Let's play "What's Wrong with This Trailer?"

My own answers:

a) George Emerson standing bare chested in front of Lucy Honeychurch is anachronistically bad enough . . . but the line, "We're in love now, aren't we?" must have made E.M. Forster turn somersaults--delicate, genteel somersaults--in his grave.

b) They didn't have sex in the pond, people! The pond was for George's symbolic baptism, remember? Who wrote this screenplay: Dan Brown???


Enbrethiliel said...


In fairness to the trailer, I like the way George and Lucy have to look over Mr. Emerson and Miss Bartlett in order to see each other. Doesn't Emerson say that George bows to Lucy over a great distance, when they first meet? I like the new meaning in this set up, which, unlike the other bits I mentioned, actually enhances the source material.

FrB said...

2. Let's play "What's Wrong with This Trailer?"

Well, what's wrong with the trailer is the fact that some bright TV executive thought that a 'new adaptation' of ARWAV was a good idea. WRONG! The Merchant-Ivory production was as near perfection as makes no difference, and a 'new adaptation' made about as much sense as re-making Brideshead.

1. I chose the above passage because I still remember the first time I read how obvious it supposedly is to a reader that Lucy is in love with George. I didn't think it was obvious at all! Did you?

Answering briefly, as Blogger ate my more detailed reply...
I was struck by that line when I first read it, but to me it was obvious. Why? Because it's a novel and the internal logic of the novel demands that Lucy fall in love with George.
I sincerely think that Forster is being ironic. He's making the point that a reader will have figured out already that Lucy must leave Cecil for George, precisely because that's the kind of thing that happens in a novel. That's what everything has been building to.

Should it have been evident to Lucy? That's not so clear. I can imagine a very perceptive confidante suggesting to Lucy that she feels awkward around George because she has some kind of latent 'crush' on him. However, that's not at all evident to Lucy, and nor should it be.

Now, the question is whether the novel makes sense. It's abundantly clear why Lucy needs to be liberated from Cecil. However, as I've mentioned before, it's not at all clear why she needs to elope with George. The demands of the novel's plot make it inevitable, but I fail to see that George has enough personality or substance to be a truly plausible 'love interest'. (There's a similar problem with Mr Bast in Howards End.) Is there an answer which says more that 'that's what happens in novels'?

Enbrethiliel said...


On #2: But what about making the movie relevant to a new generation???

Okay, I don't believe that at all. I'd agree that remaking a masterpiece of a movie is as pointless as rewriting a great novel. On the other hand, it makes sense that actors would see movies as another form of theatre and want to take their turn slipping into the available roles.


On #1: Father, that point you make is actually something I bring up with certain Romance novels that let me down. It's not very satisfying for a reader to believe that a man and woman are together at the end only because the author says they must be together. Their pairing and their happy ending must be convincing.

Then again, the whole internal logic of Lucy leaving Cecil for George was another thing that completely slipped past me! Until the last chapter, I honestly had no idea how things would work out. I think that's because I tend to think of Forster as a genre breaker rather than a genre fulfiller--and indeed, you're right that his tone turns ironic when he adopts the latter role.

I'd say the only thing the novel demanded--or rather, the only thing that I demanded from the novel--was that Lucy return to Italy.

I'll think about George some more . . .