A GREAT UNRECORDED HISTORY by Wendy Moffat
Kirkus Star

A GREAT UNRECORDED HISTORY

A New Life of E.M. Forster

KIRKUS REVIEW

A buoyant, expressive biography of British novelist E.M. Forster (1879–1970), whose homosexuality had a profound effect on his literary output and career.

In her first book, Moffat (English/Dickinson Coll.) leaves no doubt about her focus. The prologue takes its title from a quote: “Start with the Fact That He Was Homosexual.” As does the first chapter: “A Queer Moment.” Though the author examines the sex life of Forster, it isn’t her intent to arouse prurient interest or to grind political axes. Exhaustively researched and engagingly written, this sexual-literary biography builds a convincing case that until one comes to terms with Forster’s homosexuality, which he long had difficulty coming to terms with himself, it is impossible to come to terms with his work. Moffat’s novelistic command of detail reinforces the sense of intimacy, though those more accustomed to academic convention might not be comfortable with her referring throughout to her subject as “Morgan” (as his friends did), and with her use of first names and even nicknames for other principal characters. Yet such familiarity suits a narrative that illuminates the soul of a writer who suffered from such “paralyzing shyness” that he feared through his mid-30s that he might never consummate a sexual relationship, who long considered the act of homosexual love “unspeakable” and therefore unpublishable, yet “to the end of his life…recognized the sexual force as a wellspring of his creative work.” The biography begins with and then builds to the posthumous publication of Maurice (1971), the homosexually themed work that had occupied his creativity for decades when the public thought he had retired from novel writing, and which underwent substantial revisions after Forster gained experience in not only sex but homosexual love.

An empathic, highly informative celebration of the legacy of a profoundly decent but decidedly imperfect man who considered himself “the outsidest of outsiders.”

Pub Date: May 18th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-374-16678-6
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2010




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