Hoboken Readers Circle Book Group: 6/2016
The amazing once-a-month “enlightenment without electricity” 2016 Hoboken Readers Circle Book Group meets again tomorrow, Thursday, June 16th.
Hoboken Readers Circle Book Group
The Hoboken Readers Circle book group meets the 3rd Thursday of the month at 7:00pm in the comfortable and spacious Muller Room of All Saints, 701 Washington Street, in Hoboken.
All book lovers are welcome, and encouraged to even bring a friend! Free coffee and cake is served. For more info write firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of the typical synopsis – here’s an article from Reader’s Circle founder Colin J. Warnock about the author and this book!
To a Happier Year
by Colin J. Warnock
“None of the obituaries written for E.M. Forster made any reference to the author’s sexuality. Gay signifiers so obvious today—lifelong bachelor who lived with his mother—were not as telltale when Forster died in 1970 at age 91. (In 1943 critic Lionel Trilling had written an entire book about Forster without realizing his subject was homosexual.) A year after his death, Forster outed himself with the posthumous publication of Maurice, a coming-of-age love story in which the two lovers are men. The most transgressive aspect of Forster’s final novel is not the frank depiction of homosexuality in Edwardian England, it’s that the novel doesn’t end in loneliness, despair or suicide. Forster’s gay novel has a happy ending!
Forster optimistically dedicated Maurice “To a Happier Year,” and elsewhere called happiness the “keynote” to the novel: The “happy ending was imperative. I shouldn’t have bothered to write [it] otherwise.” As Don Gorton, writing for The Gay and Lesbian Review, points out, “In the Edwardian Age the suggestion that gay people were capable of forming loving unions to last a lifetime was blasphemous, subversive and probably criminal.” Since Forster knew the publication of Maurice could mean the end of his career, reputation and even a prison cell, he left explicit instructions that it not be published until after his death. The manuscript sat in a drawer for 57 years, along with a note that read “Publishable. But worth it?”
When Maurice appeared in 1971, it became the first Forster book to be published in 47 years. Why did one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century—the author of A Room With a View, Howards End and A Passage to India—suddenly stop writing? As Forster himself said, “I should have been a more famous writer if I had written or rather published more, but sex prevented the latter.” Forster’s biographer Wendy Moffat believes the author’s creative drive disappeared once he entered into his first sustained sexual relationship, at 40. According to Moffat, “The marriage plot fiction had become a masquerade to him.” Morgan, as Moffat calls Forster, was no longer interested in heterosexual characters and story lines; she describes Maurice as a “testament to Morgan’s extraordinary imagination” as a writer, since Forster was still a virgin when he wrote the book.
But what sparked the tale of Maurice Hall and Alec Scudder’s happy union? Forster once paid a visit to the writer Edward Carpenter, where he was groped by Carpenter’s young lover, George Merrill. That fleeting touch changed Forster’s life forever: “The sensation was unusual and I still remember it…. It was as much psychological as physical. It seemed to go straight through the small of my back into my ideas.” Forster’s “Terminal Note” to Maurice cites his reaction to the thrill of Merrill’s touch as the novel’s inspiration.
Forster had very specific taste in men, wanting “to love a strong young man of the lower classes and be loved by him and even hurt by him.” The fictional happy ending Forster gave to Maurice and Alec, in which they shed their old lives to create a new one together, eluded the author in real life. Forster’s most sustained relationship was with a younger, married policeman. For 40 years Forster shared Bob Buckingham with the approval of Buckingham’s wife, May. Morgan was even named godfather to their child, Robin Morgan. We’ll never know if Forster ever found that “happier year.” But near the end of his life he poignantly wrote, “Now I am 85 how annoyed I am with society for wasting my time by making homosexuality criminal. The subterfuges and the self-consciousnesses that might have been avoided.”