Saturday, January 23, 2016

Stream of consciousness

As I sat in the living room looking across at the books in the cube/shelves today, I saw Tom's volumes of Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander series. Beside them is Captain Horatio Hornblower by C.S. Forester.

This made me think of E.M. Forster. When I was a sophomore in high school, I remember reading a collection of short stories. One of them was "Too Early Spring" and another was a sci-fi story that prefigured in its way the internet and social networks. These are the only stories I recall from the book, which I was not reading for class but for pleasure. And C.S. Forester made me think of E.M. Forster and that made me think of those stories.

I looked up "Too Early Spring," thinking it had been written by him, but that particular story was by Stephen Vincent Benét. I searched around on the internet -- learning far more than I wanted about actual precursors to the internet, like the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network -- and finally found the title I was seeking: E.M. Forster's 1909 story, "The Machine Stops."

To the best of my knowledge, I only read the story once and that was about fifty years ago. But when I read the first lines, I knew it was the right one:

Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance.  There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the moment that my meditation opens, this room is throbbing with melodious sounds. An armchair is in the centre, by its side a reading-desk — that is all the furniture. And in the armchair there sits a swaddled lump of flesh — a woman, about five feet high, with a face as white as a fungus. It is to her that the little room belongs.
I won't tell you any more. The story is available online and you can read it by clicking here. Those of us who know one another only in the blogosphere might find it of interest. 

I am intrigued by the chain of synaptic connections that led me from Horatio Hornblower through a teenage angst story to sci-fi and the lines about the "small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee" that I recalled almost word for word and that enabled me to find the story online.

I think the first link in this chain, although it did not latch onto another link for a day or so, was a post on Spo-Reflections about friendships. You might want to click on that link, too.

Funny how my brain works ..

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