What do E. M. Forster and J. D. Salinger have in common? Not a whole lot, one might think, but there are a few interesting parallels. Both men were new year’s babies, exactly forty years apart: Forster born on January 1, 1879, and Salinger on January 1, 1919. Both men lived to the age of ninety-one, passing away in 1970 and 2010 respectively. For authorial identification, each used his first and middle initials rather than his first name; each achieved major success as a novelist by his early thirties; and each became one of the most celebrated writers of fiction in the English language. And both men famously stopped publishing fiction in their mid-forties—but there the paths diverge, for unlike Salinger, who chose to remove himself from the public sphere, Forster continued to publish nonfiction, including biographies, essays, and frequent book reviews, and became a familiar, rather avuncular figure to the British public as a BBC radio broadcaster. Can you imagine Salinger with his own “book talk” on radio? Well, actually, I can—but in a different time and place, in a different life.
One other interesting parallel: Forster is often said to have “abandoned” fiction in midlife but he didn’t entirely; he went on to write a book’s worth of audacious short stories, he meticulously revised the first few chapters of an unfinished novel, and, most importantly, he continued to fine-tune, on and off for a half century, his novel Maurice, which, like the stories, could not be published in its author’s lifetime due to its homosexual theme. All of these works were left for posthumous publication; their relative merits and appropriate place in the Forster library have been debated, but their significance—to both their author and to those of his readers who cherish them—can’t be denied.
And this, perhaps, will be the most significant parallel with Salinger: works awaiting posthumous publication, likely to be disparaged and argued over and only fully embraced decades after their already long-deferred arrival. So here’s to another new year, another anniversary of the births of these two remarkable writers, another question mark as Salinger devotees continue the seemingly endless wait-and-see.
Image: James Wilby and Hugh Grant in the excellent film adaptation of E. M. Forster's Maurice. Here they contemplate their desperate desire for more books by J. D. Salinger.
For further reading:
More of my thoughts about Forster
My post about the film version of Maurice
A selection of favorite Forster quotations
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
by Mark Saba Drawing Issue (issue number seven) in 2014. Image: Mark Saba, self-portrait, oil on canvas.
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
remembrance of his mother, Louise Oliver; and Romy Ashby’s essay on Regina Bartkoff and her love of Louise’s work. The excerpts are accompanied by slideshows of drawings by Louise and Regina, also from this issue.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
For its seventh issue, the Folio Club reverses its usual proportions of text and art, to devote itself to the visual. The Drawing Issue features dozens of stunning black-and-white drawings by a variety of remarkable artists. It will be published in June 2014. More information will be posted here soon.
Monday, May 6, 2013
This blog has been catching up on its beauty sleep for a long while, but the Folio Club continues to post on Facebook and is now in the midst of hatching secret plans for our next issue. In the meantime, issue six has been generating hugely enthusiastic responses. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do. Image: Preliminary sketches by Onsmith for the cover of Folio Club issue number six.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
here and will be available from other outlets soon. Better yet, ask you favorite local bookseller for it, and support the indie spirit this holiday season!)
Wednesday, November 28, 2012