Sly Digs

Frank Kermode

  • ‘The Creator as Critic’ and Other Writings by E.M. Forster, edited by Jeffrey Heath
    Dundurn, 814 pp, £45.00, March 2008, ISBN 978 1 55002 522 4

This volume contains 30 broadcasts and 40 uncollected essays, talks and lectures written by E.M. Forster between his time as a 19th-century undergraduate and his candid old age, when, in his eighties, he jotted down a memorandum about his sex life. The broadcasts and essays fill about three hundred pages of this collection, which means some five hundred pages are occupied by appendices, a bibliography and, above all, annotations. These are scrupulous but frequently more discursive than some might think the occasion requires, as when the late Edward Said is chastised at length for his errant opinion of A Passage to India. Forster’s devotees, a party that includes the present editor, are clearly unwilling to treat the paralipomena of an admired author as undeserving of the fullest canonical attention. It so happens that another vast collection of what Max Müller might have called chips from a writer’s workshop has appeared at more or less at the same moment as this one.[*] It is equally scrupulous though perhaps less arduously discursive.

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[*] The BBC Talks of E.M. Forster, 1929-60: A Selected Edition edited by Mary Lago et al (Missouri, 475 pp., $59.95, June, 978 0 8262 1800 1). There seems to be a relationship of some kind, perhaps a failed one, between these books. Both include broadcasts, but there is only a slight overlap in the material, and the editor of The Creator as Critic laments that an intention to include more broadcasts in his volume was frustrated. The BBC Talks, meanwhile, announces itself as ‘A Selected Edition’. There must be a story here, and fanatical Forsterians still cannot be sure they have access to every surviving scrap of the broadcasts.