A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E. M. Forster

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A REVELATORY LOOK AT THE INTIMATE LIFE OF THE GREAT AUTHOR—AND HOW IT SHAPED HIS MOST BE LOVED WORKS

With the posthumous publication of his long-suppressed novel Maurice in 1970, E. M. Forster came out as a homosexual— though that revelation made barely a ripple in his literary reputation. As Wendy Moffat persuasively argues in A Great Unrecorded History, Forster's homosexuality was the central fact of his life. Between Wilde's imprisonment and the Stonewall riots, Forster led a long, strange, and imaginative life as a gay man. He preserved a vast archive of his private life—a history of gay experience he believed would find its audience in a happier time.

A Great Unrecorded History is a biography of the heart. Moffat's decade of detective work—including first-time interviews with Forster's friends—has resulted in the first book to integrate Forster's public and private lives. Seeing his life through the lens of his sexuality offers us a radically new view—revealing his astuteness as a social critic, his political bravery, and his prophetic vision of gay intimacy. A Great Unrecorded History invites us to see Forster— and modern gay history—from a completely new angle.

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About the author

WENDY MOFFAT is a professor of English at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A Great Unrecorded History is her first book.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Published on
May 11, 2010
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9781429940245
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Literary
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A major reassessment of the great English novelist

This impressive new book by the celebrated British critic Frank Kermode examines hitherto neglected aspects of the novelist E. M. Forster's life and work. Kermode is interested to see how it was that this apparently shy, reclusive man should have claimed and kept such a central position in the English writing of his time, even though for decades he composed no fiction and he was not close to any of his great contemporaries—Henry James, Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce.

Concerning E. M. Forster has at its core the Clark Lectures that Kermode gave at Cambridge University in 2007 on the subject of Forster, eighty years after Forster himself gave those lectures, which became Aspects of the Novel. Kermode reappraised the influence and meaning of that great work, assessed the significance of Forster's profound musicality (Britten thought him the most musical of all writers), and offered a brilliant interpretation of Forster's greatest work, A Passage to India. But there is more to Concerning E. M. Forster than that. Thinking about Forster vis-àvis other great modern writers, noting his interest in Proust and Gide and his lack of curiosity about American fiction, and observing that Forster was closest to the people who shared not his literary interests or artistic vocation but, rather, his homosexuality, Kermode's book offers a wise, original, and persuasive new portrait not just of Forster but of twentieth-century English letters.

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.  How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir.  In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his  cash.  He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented.  Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away.  Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless's short life.  Admitting an interst that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the dries and desires that propelled McCandless.  Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

When McCandless's innocent mistakes turn out to be irreversible and fatal, he becomes the stuff of tabloid headlines and is dismissed for his naiveté, pretensions, and hubris.  He is said  to have had a death wish but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless's uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity , and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding--and not an ounce of sentimentality. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, Into the Wild is a tour de force. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer's stoytelling blaze through every page.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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