Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Room With a View (RR)

by E.M.Forster

Started: 2 August 2007
Finished: 5 August 2007

Unfortunately, I didn't record my first journey down the Arno with Lucy Honeychurch and her spinster cousin, Charlotte Bartlett. All I know is that it was some years ago and I enjoyed it immensely. Of course, I'm speaking metaphorically; I'm really referring to my first reading of the most humorous of Mr. Forster's main novels. My Forster anthology is heavily highlighted, reminiscent of those days when I color-coded my book defacings according to some mysterious system lost to time. I devoured A Room With a View, Howard's End and A Passage to India all in fairly quick succession.

A Room With A View is one of my all-time favorites stories. It was for that reason I gave it to a dear friend for her birthday.

There are many things I like about Room: the lavish settings, clever dialogue, humorous characters and nostalgic simplicity. But I really like the title of the book and I think Forster was inspired in his choice.

Initially, it seems to refer to a silly dispute in the opening chapter of the book; a misunderstanding over a social convention of the day. Were the ladies -- Lucy and Charlotte, traveling in Florence at the turn of the 20th century -- allowed to accept rooms from gentlemen they hardly knew? Can they obtain a 'room with a view' because 'ladies like views and men don't care about them?' But in actuality, I believe that situation to be an entertaining representation of our creative author's true motive behind his choice of title; the story's title really pertains to perspective and allowing ourselves perspective in life, or a wider view. Perhaps in some cases, simply opening ones' eyes in the first place.

Sometimes all we need do to obtain this wider view is get the right room. Other times, we need something more. An artist or photographer will tell you that you need the right vantage point to show a certain subject to it's best advantage. An author would say you need sufficient background information.

Lucy could be seen best in her music; it brought her alive. George, I believe, needs to be seen from the perspective of the unconventional pilgrim; he's a Don Quixote--eccentric, free and full of simple love. Charlotte -- well, if I tell you how Charlotte can be understood -- I shall give away the end of the story, which should not be spoiled.

As for me, well if anyone ever cares to know or understand me, they must share my stories. Without them, they will never see me in perspective.

I believe that many things -- almost all the most important things in fact -- can never be said in the dry, flat words of non-fiction, except occasionally in reflections on biography, or a full life. That is why stories are written--to explain and express the ineffable. And classic stories like Room do it best. They aren't the easiest books to read; they require effort. But then so does anything really worthwhile.

A favorite saying of mine is, "A house without books is like a room without windows." Forster, wants us to value a wider view--to desire our rooms to have views, or if we don't, at least to allow them for those who do.

My hope is that someday my friend will read this book -- and the other books I have given her -- if for no other reason than because she desires her room to have a view on mine.

The Highest Rating! *****

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