Monday 12 October 2015

In which I discover that I suffer from the E.M. Forster Syndrome

After writing about "book bloggers" last week, I truly wondered about my mental process with books: this inability to review the one book at a time, as most do.

In fact, I suffer from the E.M. Forster's Syndrome, mostly known under the phrase: "Only connect".

Everybody knows that these are the famous two words, Morgan Forster did put as epigraph to his novel "Howards End". While I am rambling and digressing, I may well say that this is one of my favourite books, one I have in various copies, and without which around, I feel lost.

"Only connect" leads me to tools.

I don't know if there is an objective world but I know that there is a world, which is mine, in which I live, and that each of us has her or his own world. Our perceptions are different and so we differ in our views of "the" world. What we do then is try to understand what our own world can be, grasp straws, bits, flotsam and jetsam, to broaden it, as well as we try and understand others' worlds. For all these operations or actions, we need tools.

There are our five senses of course. But there is the weight of our civilisation, of our culture and of our training. We are able to change (slightly) or at least move these and to modify our training by more acquisitions during our lifetime. And we acquire new perceptiveness and kowledge with tools like ... books of course, but also music, arts, sciences, crafts, etc. - not to talk of feelings.

I propose myself to talk only of books here, subject of course that it is a limited and deliberate choice that can be widened at any time.

Books are among my favourite tools and I use them even when I keep amused by them. They have shaped me and they still shape me.

They lead me through spaces I may never know, or that I have visited but did not understand in the same way as the authors, or that I may visit later. 

They lead me through times I will never be able to know because they are passed, or will exist later when I shall be no more, or that are lived elsewhere at this same moment.

But these tools and the world they each make me discover, connect among them. Like with a jigsaw puzzle, I have to adjust or try to adjust pieces together. Like with a kaleidoscope, I have to move the pieces to see other more complete worlds.

Therefore, as much as I need the analysis of one book, I need even  more the synthesis of several, and my own world remains a shifting one - one that is never settled forever, but around some "bones", which are defined by my situation in time and space.

And this is why I shall read "Gone With the Wind" and connect it with "The Leopard" - itself easily connected with "I Viceré" - itself connected with "Au Plaisir de Dieu" and "La Gloire de l'Empire" - all of which will connect with the Antonines, Marguerite Yourcenar, Mrs Angela Thirkell and Mrs. D.E. Stevenson. 

So that I am unable to read and review "Celia's House" or "The Brandons" by themselves. By a complex and personal web (cobweb, perhaps?) of very thin threads, I shall link them to the Roman Empire, to an historically based French novel, to the pre-WWII era in England, the unification of Italy and the American Civil War, as well as my recurrent leit-motiv of neglected under-valued women fiction, and the Götterdammerung. And I shall not forget costume dramas and my own memories as a little girl.

Add paintings or illustrations, music, cooking, trains and cars, colonialism, agriculture, weapons, churches and religion, and, and, and... 


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