Books, Highbrow Family Values

“Only Connect”–Book # 31, Howards End–and other things, too

Howards-End-2 Have I mentioned that I love E.M. Forster?

Howards End, written 100 years ago, explores the collision of commerce and poetry, the desire for something more, the need of the whole world for certain kinds of people to act as an engine, and the general discomfort of connecting in ways that may lead to greater depth.

Here's the famous quotation:

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the
prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be
seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.

Did you hear/see the John Hodgman speech that asked whether President Obama is a Jock or a Nerd? The dichotomy is similar.

I'm a Nerd, essentially (though in my family we prefer to identify as Geeks, and there are nuances), serving in a Jock church in a Jock town. It's fascinating to me. My kids grew up in a Nerd world, a place where we talk about George R.R. Martin at dinner and name our dogs after Hobbits, in a culture of Highbrow Family Values, with as little knowledge of sports as any people could possibly have, with a father *and* a stepfather who follow NO team sports, with a notion of teamwork that comes from school projects and participating in drama or orchestra or band or choir.

We are the Schlegels. But out in the world we meet the Wilcoxes.

My father was a Schlegel, like his mother and his uncles, but his father was a Wilcox, and he somehow learned to straddle two worlds. I've watched my older son do it, surviving high school by learning "to walk among them." I've watched my second son reject them and go away to live in his own universe. I see my daughter wondering how to make meaning out of the difference, assigning the people she meets their Myers-Briggs types to the best of her ability.

The world is full of Wilcoxes. We are Schlegels.

I watched the movie recently, in which Emma Thompson played Margaret and Helena Bonham Carter, Helen. While mostly true to the book, I think the movie made Leonard Bast a little less pathetic, with dream sequences of walking through the woods: he seemed almost a poem himself.

I wondered what I understood of this story when I read it in my twenties. As my friend Ruby once said in a comment on one of the posts linked above, " I wonder if the 67 year-old me
will look back at the 47 year-old me with the same rueful affection I
feel for my 27 year-old self."
I hope so.

7 thoughts on ““Only Connect”–Book # 31, Howards End–and other things, too”

  1. I looked it up. Did you know that Forster was 31 years old when Howards End was published? One wonders what HE understood of the story.
    I wish I looked at my 27-year-old self with rueful affection. What I’d really like to do is smack her upside the head: “Wake up!”

  2. I did not know that, I’m fascinated. Maybe it’s time to read more about him.

  3. Beautiful post. I’ve never read the book, though I adore the film… perhaps this summer?

  4. “And to you people I say ‘Shut up, nerds!’ ”
    Another Schlegel here.

  5. Oh, *nerdish ivory and lace fan fluttering* I do so love Forster!
    I have that quote (including the man’s reply and the woman’s rejoinder about “enlarging the space in which you may be strong”) written in my college handwriting in an old journal full of quotes.
    As I’ve said before, there is no other male author I know who seems to understand women as well. The author of “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” is a close second, but for me Forster will always be first!

  6. I’ve never read that either. Additn to list!
    I’m a Schlegel too. Could you guess it?

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