Official: Snowbooks understand Forster's plan • 4 February 2006 • The SnowBlog
Official: Snowbooks understand Forster's plan
Every now and again I google 'Snowbooks', naturally. Usually I'm asked whether I actually meant 'Snowboots'. Sigh. Maybe we should diversify.
It's very nice, anyway, when an unexpected and splendid thing pops up in the search results, like this review of The Celestial Omnibus by E M Forster. We think our Signature collection books - pretty, collectable hardbacks of neglected literary works, of which the Forster is one - are gorgeous, which makes up for their relatively modest sales. It's nice to hear that this reviewer believes Forster would have liked them, too:
"This new edition of Forster's The Celestial Omnibus is recommendable to every Forsterite, to every bibliophile and to everybody who wants or has to read Forster's stories. Some people will probably have to get a critical edition from the library to accompany the reading, but if they do not, they can open their hearts as well as their minds. The result of such a reading could be more revealing and inspiring, but definitely, it would be closer to the intention of the author. Snowbooks have understood Forster's plan."
I've got to say, I wouldn't have dreamed of trying deliberately to second-guess Forster, but heck - the opinion of someone who goes to the bother of maintaining a site just about their favourite author must be worth something.
Read the full review: The first story of the collection is The Story of a Panic. It was the first story Forster ever wrote, and the circumstances of its creation remained vividly with him as long as he lived. It was written with the help of a genius loci: Forster received the first part of the story while taking a walk near Ravello/Italy in May 1902. Interestingly, the last story of the collection is the second of three instances of the effects of a genius loci in Forsters entire oeuvre. Reading these stories is a revealing experience. We get to know a young and a fresh author, much as in his gay short stories of The Life to Come. There does not seem to be a filter in between the heart of the author and the text as we can read it. Dry Forster was said to be, the maiden aunt of English literature, leaving behind him an ephemeral impression only. The reason, some people argue, might have been that he did not want to include too many hints towards his very self in his texts. However, this happedif it happened at allonly with the texts he composed in a creative struggle. These short stories were created in a different way: they came to Forster naturally; he did not have to look for them.
In most of the stories of this collection, the author adapts themes from the classics or introduces classical characters to the English landscape. In Other Kingdom, he tells us the story of a woman who escapes her hopeless situation by becoming a dryad of her own wood. In The Road from Colonus, Forster echoes the tragedy of Oedipus and Antigone in the story of Ethel and her father Mr. Lucas, an old man who wants to die a dramatic death in Greece. Unlike Oedipus, he is rescued by his daughter, but actually diminished fatally by her.
Traditionally, editorial notes help the readers of such stories to understand all the interrelations to the classics, to literary theory or to the life of the author. Not in this edition. Following closely the Sidgwick and Jackson edition of 1924 but leaving out the original dedication To the Memory of the Independent Review, this book comes with the texts only. Is this a good idea?, one may ask. With this collection having been out of print for years, one had expected some critical edition, not such a beautiful book. The square format and the artistic cover hint at such a beautiful rather than a critical edition. So does the layout: the curved initials, the font, the endpaper.
The cover story is a parable about reading and feeling. The Celestial Omnibus takes a boy and a well-read but emotionally mutilated man to heaven. On their strange journey, the two meet characters from mythology and literature. While the man recognizes them with his mind, the boy experiences them with his heart. In the end, the boy arrives in heaven, whereas the man fails and ends up not only emotionally but also physically mutilated. Only the boy was able to connect the mind with the heart. How shall we read the classicsor literature in generalthen? This is what teachers ask after having read the story with their pupils. With enthusiasm and an open heart. This is the answer pupils ought to give, but still people have to rely on dusty old textbooks or much too critical editions of Forster. Here we have an edition which speaks to the heart. We have a book which looks beautiful, which does not smell of cheap adhesive and which does not look as if the author was only read in classrooms nowadays. This book enables us to read Forster without thinking of all the secondary literature and the history and the things teachers once told us.
This new edition of Forsters The Celestial Omnibus is recommendable to every Forsterite, to every bibliophile and to everybody who wants or has to read Forsters stories. Some people will probably have to get a critical edition from the library to accompany the reading, but if they do not, they can open their hearts as well as their minds. The result of such a reading could be more revealing and inspiring, but definitely, it would be closer to the intention of the author. Snowbooks have understood Forsters plan.
Forster, E. M. The Celestial Omnibus and Other Stories. 1911. London: Snowbooks, 2005. 160 pp., ISBN: 1-905005-00-8, recommended price: 9.99.