A WRITER'S WIT
My Book World
Oliver Stallybrass offers in his introduction a bit of background concerning these stories. “On his death in June 1970, E. M. Forster left behind, at King’s College, Cambridge, England, a considerable corpus of unpublished literary work, complete and incomplete, and in a wide range of genres: novels (Maurice, published in 1971, and two substantial fragments), stories, plays, poems, essays, talks—to say nothing of letters, diaries and notebooks” (vii). A number of these stories—because Forster creates gay characters and situations that cannot be published at the time he writes them—are instructive for gay writers alive today. One, he is courageous, given his prodigious talent, to write them anyway, not to edit his mind, his heart, his soul. Even if he stashes them away or editors reject them, he senses perhaps that subsequent generations might read and appreciate them. The language and imagery are tame, of course, compared with any so-called gay fiction written since the early 1970s. But the fact that he is willing to portray two men together sexually, employing words like “member” for “penis,” is quite remarkable. Second, he provides a foundation for writers to come, people such as Paul Monette, who, in his book of essays, Last Watch of the Night, pays quick homage to Forster as a mentor. Forster is a formidable and lyrical writer whose work transcends all and deserves to be read by anyone, even fifty years following his death.
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