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Topic: Passge to India!

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Subject: Passge to India!
Date Posted: 6/7/2009 11:46 PM ET
Member Since: 2/3/2009
Posts: 1
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Now on my bookshelf!

Subject: Alex, Alex, Alex
Date Posted: 6/8/2009 2:10 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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I got excited over nothing. I though you were going to post a lovely summary and opinion about this classic.

Alex, this bookshelf newsflash belongs the Book Bazaar, not in a discussion forum. We don't advertise our shelves here.



Date Posted: 6/8/2009 10:41 PM ET
Member Since: 8/15/2007
Posts: 201
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I was hoping for an opinion, too.  Or perhaps someone can sympathize with my complete inability to develop any real interest in the book (although I did slog my way through the whole thing).  I tried, really I did!

Date Posted: 6/9/2009 12:47 AM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,550
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A long time after it made its first noise, A Passage To India still provokes disagreement among readers and critics. The traditional view is to regard it as an anti-imperialist novel, even more so than Kim, but [on the surface] almost strident. Much of the disagreement concerns Forster, not the book itself. Some critics stress how much first-hand exposure Forster had to India itself; others stress how little. To me, the most perceptive points made by those who stress the anti-imperialism are that the book shows mostly how England was the big loser, psychologically and otherwise, in the struggle between colonizer and colonist. Personally, I think great books show how people deal, internally and externally, with life and the way it will "punch you out." In A Passage To India, Forster shows the conflict inside all the major characters, particularly Aziz, Fielding, and Mrs Moore. also think that in any sizeable work a great writer will demonstrate his "world view," his personal philosophy as it were. Forster is obviously anti-imperialist, anti-colonial. But it is very difficult to assess his "big picture." Is there, in the long run, anny "meaning" to man's existence? He is very elusive in this matter. I thought it was a very good book, but a little short of a great one.

And to Karen: Watch and figure out what the author is doing and grade him or her on how well they do it. If a book is an "easy read," it is pulp fiction.

p.s. And who do I think we have in America today writing what anyone will pay any attention to 50 years from now --- Not many. Cormac McCarthy, yes. Zadie Smith, maybe. And my divergent opinion is that Martin Cruz Smith gets better all the time.

Date Posted: 6/9/2009 8:05 PM ET
Member Since: 8/15/2007
Posts: 201
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If a book is an "easy read," it is pulp fiction.

And yet, I find truly "pulp" fiction unreadable.  I may have to give Forster another shot.  Thanks John!

(and now, off to dare my husband to try Portrait of a Lady, which I love, but which is definitely not a beach read)

Date Posted: 6/9/2009 10:34 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
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FYI - Zadie Smith is a Brit.

Date Posted: 6/11/2009 1:45 AM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 56
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If a book is an "easy read," it is pulp fiction.

At first, I almost felt compelled to disagree with John's statement.  Then I started thinking about The Wasteland and Ulysses along with Crime and Punishment and a myriad of other "greats".

Now I am thinking: Why is it that all our greatest written works are so difficult to get through? 

In some cases - such as Dostoevsky - there is an obvious language barrier.  In Russian literature, character's names always seem to have anywhere from 3 to 6 variations.  Variations that often don't seem anything like the original which makes reading a bit confusing.  However, what was in T.S. Eliot's head when he wrote The Wasteland?  Was he smoking opium like Samuel Coleridge?  He had to write so many notations to The Wasteland that it's like reading a line-by-line guide (which assumes you already have about 1000 years of literature already locked in your mind). 

Why?  Why?  Were they horrific sadists who desired to torture English majors years later? 

Date Posted: 6/12/2009 11:57 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,550
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Hey, I was one of those English majors once! Great call!  They make you read at least three by Henry James. I know of no author who places such demands on the reader and rewards them so scantly. And there is worse stuff highly ranked in their "Canon":  Tristram Shandy, Ulysses, anything and everything by Joyce except P:ortrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the great English poet Wordsworthless, I could go on for about four more lines before stopping for breath.

But to try to answer the part about difficulty, at least from my perspective: I think to be great, literature must engage what I call universal human values. How ought a person play the cards they are dealt? Why do they behave in the manner they do? And if the author gives easy answers, that may make for a great read --- once I read all of Mickey Spillane, most of Zane Grey; lately, I have read all WEB Griffin's books about US Marine Corps and am working on the 8 about US Army, enjoying them greatly, and for exactly the same reasons that I reject them as Literature with a capital L-- but it won't make me stop and ponder over the dilemmas faced by any of the characters. Look at Oedipus or Hamlet. The latter, in particular, screws up everything he touches, kills everyone he loves; but in his shoes -- believing the haint he saw was real and that his duty to his dead Pa was to do what he did: well, what should he have done; what, walking in his moccasins, would you have done? Presenting such problems for the reader and dealing honestly with these problems is what, to me, great Literature is made of.

p.s. Zadie Smith, I think, is living and working in the U.S. now; certainly sets most of her stuff, so far, in Great Britain, and has all her roots in the Carribbean. Alas, who cares? :)

Date Posted: 9/10/2009 2:52 PM ET
Member Since: 2/7/2008
Posts: 309
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Oh come on now... I like Tristram Shandy! It's funny!

I'm with you on Joyce, though. Pointless.


Date Posted: 9/10/2009 9:08 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
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Easy is in the eye of the beholder.  I think Jane Austen, Dickens and Ovid are easy but struggled through Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

Date Posted: 10/19/2009 8:19 AM ET
Member Since: 12/22/2008
Posts: 533
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Vanessa, how true......"easy" is in the eye of the beholder/reader.   For pleasure I read Crime and Punishment and The Road, and thoroughly loved both.  Ironically, Austen and Dickens are strugglers for me.  Different strokes......