My name is Doug Wykstra, and this is some of the stuff I've read and watched.
E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel constitutes a fun guided tour through English literature by one of the greats. I usually enjoy books where writers discuss the authors and books they like or don’t, but Forster is especially fun to listen to, giving thoughtful explanations for why he doesn’t like Thomas Hardy, or what he can appreciate about George Meredith, and approaching the whole enterprise from a position of humility and acknowledged subjectivity. At each point, he seems to be saying, “This is my opinion, you can take it or leave it.” The points where I can’t help but disagree with his conclusions are as enjoyable as the points where he seems to confirm something for me.
The structure of his lectures, which observe the novel through a variety of common aspects (story, characters, plot, fantasy, etc), allow Forster to examine a large cross-section of English literature, and make some theories about the nature of how we think and write that are interesting, but also seem a little arbitrary. Several of the tangents he goes on make it clear that these were originally lectures rather than essays–they feel more like the sort of thing you would say aloud than write down, if that makes sense. But that’s fine–I’m here more for the conversation anyway.
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