At the risk of becoming hopelessly recursive, I’d like to direct you to the New York Review of Books, in particular, Zadie Smith’s review of E.M. Forster’s collected BBC book reviews. What caught my eye was Zadie Smith’s great opening paragraph:
In the taxonomy of English writing, E.M. Forster is not an exotic creature. We file him under Notable English Novelist, common or garden variety. Still, there is a sense in which Forster was something of a rare bird. He was free of many vices commonly found in novelists of his generationâ€”what’s unusual about Forster is what he didn’t do. He didn’t lean rightward with the years, or allow nostalgia to morph into misanthropy; he never knelt for the Pope or the Queen, nor did he flirt (ideologically speaking) with Hitler, Stalin, or Mao; he never believed the novel was dead or the hills alive, continued to read contemporary fiction after the age of fifty, harbored no special hatred for the generation below or above him, did not come to feel that England had gone to hell in a hand-basket, that its language was doomed, that lunatics were running the asylum, or foreigners swamping the cities.
Just look at what Zadie has done here: she has managed to write an exceptionally interesting introduction to a man who was not particularly interesting by any of the standard measures. What comes across is Forster’s almost inhuman reasonableness and as Zadie goes on to write, this is both his deepest flaw as a writer and his saving grace. And so I link to this piece not to pursue any particular philosophical point or literary argument but simply because it is a rare joy to come across such precise and dextrous writing and, well, I wanted to share the feeling.