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Books: Punch Another

2 minute read

THE ETERNAL MOMENT—E.M. Forster —Harcourt Brace ($2.50). Fifteen years ago when these stories were written, television was not an accomplished fact, nor flying taken for granted. Yet “The Machine Stops” (one of the stories) presupposes these for a subterranean segregated existence, predicates a punch of the button for mechanical medical service, punch of another for compound food tablets, another for a lecture, and yet another for a symphony. But gradually the music goes bad, the artificial air fouls, and the great god machine deteriorates quickly to utter non-function, vomiting its inhabitants up dark passages to death from unaccustomed contact with fellow creatures, or from the unexpurgated air of the earth’s surface.

This threat of the consequences of a machine-mad age is most engaging. But more of a piece with the author’s widely read A Passage to India is the title story. An elderly authoress returns to the Swiss village that she has made famous through one of her stories, finds that the lanky porter-guide whose impulsive love she had rebuffed years before has turned into a paunchy obsequious concierge. To her horror she realizes that she has loved the man all these years, and that it is her fault he and his village have become so disgustingly prosperous. She attempts atonement, which is completely misunderstood by her inferior. Author Forster is at his best in interpreting the impossibility of spiritual understanding between high and low born.

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