Dryad

December 29, 2019

They continued the conversation outside. “But I’ve got to hate my own writing. I believe that most people come to that stage — not so early though. What I write is too silly. It can’t happen. For instance, a stupid vulgar man is engaged to a lovely young lady. He wants her to live in the towns, but she only cares for woods. She shocks him this way and that but gradually he tames her, and makes her nearly as dull as he is. One day she has a last explosion — over the snobby wedding-presents — and flies out of the drawing-room window, shouting, ‘Freedom and truth!’ Near the house is a little dell full of fir-trees, and she runs into it. He comes there the next moment. But she’s gone.”

“Awfully exciting. Where?”

“Oh Lord, she’s a Dryad!” cried Rickie, in great disgust. “She’s turned into a tree.”

“Rickie, it’s very good indeed. That kind of thing has something in it. Of course you get it all through Greek and Latin. How upset the man must be when he sees the girl turn.”

“He doesn’t see her. He never guesses. Such a man could never see a Dryad.”

“So you describe how she turns just before he comes up?”

“No. Indeed I don’t ever say that she does turn. I don’t use the word ‘Dryad’ once.”

“I think you ought to put that part plainly. Otherwise, with such an original story, people might miss the point. Have you had any luck with it?”

E. M. Forster
The Longest Journey

Antonio Lee

Yes – oh, dear, yes – the novel tells a story. That is the fundamental aspect without which it could not exist. That is the highest factor common to all novels, and I wish that it was not so, that it could be something different–melody, or perception of truth, not this low atavistic form.

For the more we look at the story (the story that is a story, mind), the more we disentangle it from the finer growths that it supports, the less shall we find to admire. It runs like a backbone – or may I say a tapeworm, for its beginning and end are arbitrary. It is immensely old – goes back to Neolithic times, perhaps to Palaeolithic. Neanderthal man listened to stories, if one may judge by the shape of his skull. . . .

When we isolate the story like this from the nobler aspects through which it moves, and hold it out on the forceps – wriggling and interminable, the naked worm of time – it presents an appearance that is both unlovely and dull.

E M Forster
Aspects of the Novel