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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Sunday, 14 April 2013

The habit of contentment

Monday, April 14th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

Advance of age. I now sit down to brush my hair and put my collar and tie on. I also take a decided pleasure in forming habits, and re-forming old ones connected with the furniture from Fontainebleau, whose little peculiarities of locks and knobs etc. I recognise again with positive satisfaction. The pleasure of doing a thing in the same way at the same time every day, and savouring it, should be noted.

I am now at close on p. 1000 of "War and Peace". Curious the episode of Lavrushka the valet, and Napoleon, in which he takes a historical incident, and feigns that as recounted in history it is all wrong, and gives you what he alleges to be the real truth. Even in this early book his theory of war is already fairly complete and obvious.

In the Evening Standard I have written about E. M. Forster's new volume of short stories, "The Eternal Moment" which can only fortify his reputation as an imaginative writer. It comprises remarkable things, and one quite startling thing - The Machine Stops. This tale, of the far future, is in the vein of H. G. Wells when he is fantastic. Mr. Forster has done the fantastic before; but never with such complete success. Indeed Mr. Wells might have been content to sign The Machine Stops. It is original; it is full of imaginative invention; it hangs together; it is terrible (but with a hopeful close); it is really impressive in a high degree. It ought not to be missed. If the majority of readers who like this sort of story are not enthusiastic about The Machine Stops, then I will enter a retreat for critics who have prophesied falsely, and in future write nothing but reviews of new editions of seventeenth century versifiers whom nobody except their editors has ever heard of.

"The Machine Stops" is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review (November 1909), the story was republished in Forster's The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928. After being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965, it was included that same year in the populist anthology Modern Short Stories. In 1973 it was also included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two. The book is particularly notable for predicting new technologies such as instant messaging and the internet.

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