It annoys me that Susan Hill used the popularity of this novel–or more likely the Merchant-Ivory film–to sell her second-rate collection of uninsightful, egotistical, blog-like musings on the contents of her giant brain. I know there are two unequal but clearly divided camps about Hill’s Howards End is on the Landing and I forgive you if you fall into the much larger “liked it” camp.
|This may be a picture of the
West Bank Parking Ramp
at the U of MN.
Having gotten that off of my chest, I will now embark upon an uninsightful, egotistical, blog-like musing on my second reading of Howards End. I first read Forster’s Tour de France (sic) in the spring of my sophomore year in college. I was working as a parking garage cashier at the University of Minnesota (in Minnesota we call multilevel parking garages “parking ramps”–a phrase my east coast grad school roommate at Cornell beat out of me). It was a great job. I got to sit in a heated booth each evening where I would study, read, talk on the phone, write letters (yes, we wrote letters in 1989), and plan (in great detail) my first trip to England. Occasionally there would be a rush of cars needing to pay as they exited, but still lots and lots of free time. It occurs to me now that I may have cheated the University of Minnesota and the taxpayers of my natal state out of a chunk of change. Not for studying on the job–that was allowed–but because I regularly filled in my time sheet incorrectly (and inadvertantly). You see my hours were supposed to be from about 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm each weekday but the other cashier–a full-time, non-student employee–told me each night around 9:00 pm that I could go. Although he was my onsite supervisor (he looked a bit like a short, tubby version of the then unknown Unabomber) my hours were set by the central parking office. So when I filled out my time card I always put down six hours instead of five because those were the hours I was scheduled to work. I can honestly say that it never occurred to me that rather than reflect the schedule, my time card should reflect actual hours worked. Oops.
Anyhoo, after re-reading Howards End I realize how appropriate it was that I first read it while I worked in the aforementioned parking structure. I was the modern day equivalent of Leonard Bast, striving to better myself and overcome socio-economic destiny through the moral uplift of great literature. It worked far better in my case, if for no other reason than I didn’t die after being assaulted by Emma Thompson, err I mean Margaret Schlegel’s stepson.
The shuffle feature on an iPod can really surprise. I am now listening to the bell peal of St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol. Of course this begs the question why I have an album of The Church Bells of England on my iPod. But if you have to ask that question, you aren’t quite the Cardigan Mafioso/a I thought you were. And now the iPod is on to John Legend. The other day I asked my John who he thought should write and record a song about our dog Lucy called “Honeybear” (my mother’s appellation for the lovable Lucy). I gave him the choice of Ben Folds, John Legend, or Diana Krall. And then I don’t think I gave him a chance to answer as I talked about how good John Legend’s version would be.
As I have mentioned countless times before, my introduction to the world of Forster was the Merchant-Ivory version of A Room With a View–which has been universally acknowledged* as the best film ever made. I shudder to think how old I might have been when I discovered Forster if it wasn’t for that film. And besides telling interesting stories, Forster has a knack for describing the human condition.
Paul Cadmus’ homage to Forster.
Was Mrs. Wilcox one of the unsatisfactory people — there are many of them — who dangle intimacy and then withdraw it? They evoke our interests and affections, and keep the life of the spirit dawdling around them. Then they withdraw. When physical passion is involved, there is a definite name for such behaviour–flirting–and if carried far enough it is punishable by law. But no law–not public opinion even–punishes those who coquette with friendship, though the dull ache that they inflict, the sense of misdirected effort and exhaustion, may be as intolerable.
I have known many people like that. Therapy has led me to wonder if my sometimes insufferable behavior (hopefully mostly in my past) might not be the reason for some people to behave this way towards me. But I have a feeling it isn’t all my fault. It is hard for me to think that the Vanessa Redgrave version of Mrs. Wilcox would be that way, but the scene in the film (and book) where she leaves Margaret behind at the train station and goes off with Mr. Wilcox and Evie has always depressed me. I know that feeling so well. Lots of excitement to do something fun with a friend only to have circumstances intervene and the friend ditch you for something else…always stings a bit, even if the reason for said ditchment (pronounced ala francaise) is legitimate.
|Forster Monument behind
St. Nicholas Church
in Stevenage, England.
I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading this book 23 years after I first read it. I pondered what I might have thought and felt when I read it the first time (I don’t remember). And I really enjoyed thinking about how it differed from the film version. Unlike most other film adaptations, the Merchant-Ivory film stands up to the book. The film is certainly faithful to the spirit of the book and the instances where it differs in letter were really quite brilliant changes that not only make the film work well, but also reinforce Forster’s intent. I wonder if he would agree. I once opined somewhere in the blogosphere that I would love to meet Forster and show him all “his” films.
If you haven’t read Forster, you should. If you are chicken, try Where Angels Fear to Tread, if you feel a little more committed try A Room With A View, if you long for something a little queer try Maurice, and if you really want the full force of Forsters literary brilliance go for Howards End. (I know some esteemed blogger tried hard to like Forster and finally managed with Howards End–no names…) Or if you are hopelessly unable to pick up a Forster novel watch the Merchant-Ivory versions (and only the Merchant-Ivory versions) of A Room With A View, Howards End, and Maurice (in that order). And if you don’t like the books or the films…can’t. talk. now. mind. melting…
|This is what came up when I did a Google image search for “west bank parking ramp university of minnesota”
It is an image from a story in the Minnesota Daily about a Zombie Pub Crawl.
Could this be Helen Schlegel (Helena Bonham-Carter) the Zombie?