I keep trying to write, write here, for all the little that it matters, and all I manage is labyrinthine thoughts and abominable abstraction. As I read about Oscar Wilde’s books and Stephen Fry’s life, I am reminded of something, someone I was (17 and 20 respectively) when these people were my heroes and it surprises me to find my beloved quiet hero in Fry’s narrative – E.M. Forster. I know I’ve written about Forster before, he of the Merchant Ivory melancholy films, but I hold him in high esteem as I do George Orwell for brilliant feeling rather than brilliant writing. E.M. Forster, not truly a brilliant writer, is enshrined – yes, enshrined, with his own set of lights and flowers – in my heart as the first person to show me what surviving your own confusion looks like. It was and is an inspiring feat. Maybe it’s time to re-read Maurice again. Whenever I see the old Penguin edition, which isn’t very often, I remember how it seduced me, and how I picked it up gently and took it home with me and read it in a night. It’s why I own multiple copies – it would be unkind to leave it there, stranded in a second-hand bookstore.
It reminds me of when I read Ruskin and Pater and J.K. Huysmans (oh terrible, painful) and Keats – oh I miss my little books of Keats – and all of the mixed bag of my love of 19th century lit, which like an old habit I forget most days now.
(As I listen to Stephen Fry, it occurs to me that he uses a mechanism I know very well, a negative self-talk I recognize – did I really just write “negative self-talk”? – when he talks about cheating to pass exams. When he says “cheating” he really means “understanding exactly what is required, and then doing what is needed” which is surely a skill worth crediting? But like all people with low self esteem, the skill he has is always silly and trifling compared to the one he hasn’t got. He has intelligence, insight and excellent writing skills; but like all of us with low self esteem, he is only an imposter, never the real thing, compared to, oh, someone over there who looks like he really gets it.)