The River of Literature: Whirlpools

An interesting article on a continuation of E.M. Forster’s posthumously published Maurice (a novel about gay men that Forster insisted must have a happy ending) made me think about the trend for continuations.

It’s not just happening in visual media, and in genre (sf/f, romance) but in mainstream lit, as this piece makes plain. I see opinions about this all over the place, some closer to Harold Bloom’s The Anxiety of Influence (the title pretty much sums up his take on the matter) to the enormous, no, vast expansion of popularity of A03, which is mostly about exactly that, to the cynical “let’s cash in on X while it’s hot” attitude of some writers/publishers, viz. some of the Jane Austen mashups/spinoffs/ AU retellings. (many of which are astonishingly badly edited, making me suspect cash cow milking).

I don’t think these latter represent a terrible trend, as in the Death of Creativity As We Know It. I do think that, especially in stressful times, people resort to comfort books, either revisiting favorites, or wanting more of the same. Writers, too. What more natural, since literature is a long conversation with itself, shaped by the current culture any given writer lives in. After all, literature came out of the retellings, and reshapings, of stories important to cultures: a thousand years of Arthuriana, after the many retellings of Homer’s epics, the Mahabharata still evolving after how many centuries, the outlaw/Jianghu tales popping up in ever new forms despite being frowned on by governments in China for well over two thousand years.

Some of the ones I’ve encountered work for me, some don’t. It’s always interesting to discover which ones slide into my head, seamlessly meshing with canon. I wonder if that’s how it worked way back in the days of the Homer and Vergil retellings.

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The River of Literature: Whirlpools — 2 Comments

  1. This is more the point of the review, or so it seemed to me, a condition we’re seeing so much of now — fannish readers believing books, plots and characters belong to them, to do with as they like. Or to punish if writer does not do as they wish.

    [ “Forster’s reading public did not ever really know him, and for some, like Ozick, this felt like a betrayal. As if he owed his reader any truth other than what was in his novels, or any life other than the one he lived in writing them. There was not the slightest bit of anger at what the world had denied Forster, and only contempt at what he himself might have denied himself as a result.” ]

    Interesting, among those who seem not to have seen Maurice before its post-Forster death publication, is Gore Vidal. Surely that would infuriate him, if he were still among the living, practicing some littérature cochonne with which to season the literary, post-Forster world. One wonders too, if Forster shared to a degree that impish dimension that Vidal possessed (though that all to easily transformed into deliberate malice and even viciousness, the older he got).

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