Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A riff on love and A Room with a View

1/ This is a romance novel. 
2/ A love story in which our heroine has to learn and grow, in order to understand herself, and understand love. 
3/ What does that sound like? Jane Austen. 
4/ Our heroine Lucy is silly. Like me. 
5/ Lucy mistakenly thinks she loves Cecil. 
6/ Cecil mistakenly thinks he loves her. 
7/ A blogger friend of mine ponders "Is it my imagination or is Beebe implying that Cecil is homosexual?". No, Cecil isn't gay. Not everyone has their other half somewhere waiting to be found, I suspect there are people who can never love, and people who can never be loved. Cecil probably belongs to the 1st group. I probably belong to the 2nd. 
8/ What are Cecil's problems? He's self-important, snobbish, pompous, judgemental, uptight, forever disdainful, and intolerable to be with. 
9/ Proper, but too proper; intellectual, but too intellectual; he lacks flexibility, and spontaneity, he lacks a sense of fun; people can't be themselves around him. 
10/ That is what George sees. Lucy doesn't. She vaguely feels it, but doesn't see it clearly till he tells her. 
11/ Biggest flaw: Cecil sees and judges people based on intellect and sophistication. He doesn't feel. 
12/ Or he does feel, but what he feels is the admiration or even the ecstatic bliss of an intellectual, an art lover, a virtuoso, towards a painting, a piece of music, which is how he feels about Lucy. Not human feelings. 
13/ Definitely not passion. Look at how he kisses. 
14/ I wonder how Cecil acts in bed. Would he politely, properly ask for permission? 
15/ Because he's up there, with his standards, and looking down on others, he can't know anyone intimately. 
16/ Especially not a woman, George says. Because Cecil has his own ideas about how a woman should act. Women are the other sex, almost like another species, he wants to control them, and therefore can't understand them. 
17/ An ideal bachelor. 
18/ What about George Emerson? 
19/ "He is already part of you. Though you fly to Greece, and never see him again, or forget his very name, George will work in your thoughts till you die. It isn’t possible to love and to part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal." 
How is it love? How is it eternal? How, when come to think of it, Lucy and George barely know each other? 
20/ 1 thing unites them: an incident, a moment, a connection. 
21/ Another: a longing, a desire to be free, to be unbound, to learn, to grow. 
22/ Is that enough? Maybe it is. 
23/ (Sometimes I wonder if George sees Cecil even better than he sees Lucy). 
24/ Tom wrote a few years ago: "Normally I have no stake in anyone liking or not liking a book – so many personal peculiarities go into “liking” and “loving” – but not liking A Room with a View seems like an error of some sort. A miscategorization. The book is so enormously likable." 
But I don't. I don't dislike it. I just don't particularly like it. 
25/ Should I write a post titled "On not liking an enormously likeable book"? 
26/ The reason is perhaps George. He's rather vague, more like a type than an individual, except in 2 scenes when he has a long speech, after the murder, and when he confesses his feelings and tries to persuade Lucy to break off the engagement.
27/ Or the love story between him and Lucy. They barely know each other, I said. 
28/ (Or I prefer to read about tempestuous/ toxic relationships, like Anna Karenina's, like Emma Bovary's, or Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff). 
29/ Or Julian Sands. Let's put the blame on Julian Sands. 
30/ My favourite character would be Cecil Vyse. Not because I like him as a person- oh the unbearable Cecil. But because of how real he feels. 
31/ Another is Charlotte Bartlett, someone who can exist perfectly in the background of a Jane Austen novel. A marvellous creation. 
32/ I suppose I have a thing for annoying, intolerable characters. 
33/ How does Miss Bartlett love, you think? 


  1. Di,

    I guess my reaction is the same as yours. I've read _Room_ and _Howards End_ and found them a pleasant read--but not very engaging.

    I've also read _A Passage to India_ and found that one much more absorbing. I have never considered rereading either _Room_ or _Howards End_ voluntarily, but would have no problem if they happened to be a selection for a discussion. I would be much more likely to reread _Passage_ voluntarily.

    For example: last year I read everything I had by Jane Austen, and 2017 will be the Year of Lawrence Durrell, but I would never think of a Year of Forster.

  2. I'll note that my comment at litlove's was in the context of a discussion where many people did not like the book, for reasons like not liking stories about British people going abroad. Some people don't like the sun. Some people don't like Italy.

    But taking "likeable" as a category, not a personal response, surely that's where the book goes? Forster is not trying to alienate his readers, an if he is trying to work them up into a Dionysian frenzy, it is a quiet one with tea afterwards.

    Mr. Emerson, in that "love is eternal" quote, may himself be living under a delusion. There is no need to agree with him.

    I believe that Mr. Beebe is implying that Cecil is homosexual, which does not therefore mean that Cecil is homosexual. Beebe is the gay character.

    I have doubts about the Bildungsroman label. It seems to me that Lucy is already developed, already full of Bildung, as demonstrated by her mastery of the Romantic German piano literature. Thus she is primed to imbibe Italy and all that implies. The barriers she faces in the novel are social, not developmental. She has to shatter the conventional Victorian mores and restrictions that keep her from truly living and loving etc.

    My argument with the novel is that the above is kind of trivial. Adolescent overturning. A Passage to India is so much more ethically complex.