Julie Strauss on Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
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Books discussed in this episode:
Howard’s End by E.M. Forster
Transcript from Episode 001 – Introduction with Julie Strauss
“No difference?” Mr. Wilcox inquired. “No difference, when you find that I am not the fellow you thought?” He was annoyed with Miss Schlegel here. He would have preferred her to be prostrated by the blow, or even to rage. Against the tide of his sin glowed the feeling that she was not altogether womanly. Her eyes gazed too straight; they had read books that are suitable for men only.
That was me, Julie Strauss, reading one of my favorite quotes from Howard’s End by E.M. Forster.
Hi Book Nerds. Welcome to the Best Book Ever, a podcast where we talk about your favorite books. I’m your host, Julie Strauss. And today’s episode is a short introduction to who I am and what you’ll hear on my podcast.
I’m a fiction and nonfiction writer, reader, editor, and now I get to add podcaster to all my hyphens. I’m also a homeschool mom, a wife, a gardner, a red wine drinker, and a resident of Southern California.
I love talking about all of those things, but my favorite topic is, and always will be, books. Part of it is because I’m an introvert and I’m not very good at small talk. When I go to someone’s house, the first thing I will always do is look over their bookshelves. And I often pull a few off the shelves and get absorbed in them.
If I’m in a social situation, I almost always ask the person I’m talking to what they have been reading lately. What’s your favorite book? Why do you like that book so much? What does it mean to you? Small talk is irredeemably dull to me and I’m not good at it anyway, but I love asking about reading habits.
When do you read, what genres do you prefer? Is there anything you won’t read? These questions to me are so much more interesting than generic small talk about the weather. And through these questions, I feel like I really get to know a person to understand who they are and what they think and what they believe in.
For me, people as a group are loud and scary and annoying, but people individually are fascinating and funny and complex and wonderful. And the book conversation is always fantastic because even if I don’t have any interest in reading their favorite book, I love watching people talk about it. This conversation is a real way to get to know people.
So it made sense that my foray into podcasting would be this topic. Some of the best conversations of my life have been when other people were convincing me to read their favorite book. On each episode of best book ever, I’ll invite a new guest on, and they’ll tell me all about their favorite book, what it means to them and why they love it.
I’ve already recorded lots of episodes and the variety of books we’re going to discuss in this podcast is astonishing. People love a whole lot of weird and wonderful books. And boy, do they love to talk about them!
Anyone who’s known me for more than five minutes knows about my favorite book, which I quoted at the beginning.
I first read Howard’s End somewhere around 1992. When the movie was originally released, I saw the movie first, which I don’t normally like to do, but in this case it was worth it. The book’s a little bit intimidating, and I might not have picked it up otherwise. The movie is spectacular: lush and gorgeous, subtly acted and beautifully layered.
But the book, as is almost always the case, is better. I read it almost every year and it has this wonderful effect on me where it feels familiar and comfortable and also completely new every time. I can list off all sorts of intellectual reasons I think it’s a great book – from the perfect plot structure, to the examination of wealth and poverty and power, to the territorial relationships that characters have with London and who gets to live there.
But I can also tell you that it is just a joy to read. Every time I read it a different character becomes my favorite. There are parts that are so tragic, but also has a really sly and subtle wit. And it is a book about book lovers. I love the different ways that people love each other in this book, the bond between the sisters, the romance between the married couples, the illicit affairs. And I love the way every one of those loves changes by the end of the book. I love the use of language and how clearly I can picture every person and every room, down to the wallpaper. And of course I love the country house called Howard’s End, and it is my life goal to live in a country house in England, just like the one described in the book, with a witch elm out front and a meadow of hay next to it.
You’ll be amazed at all the different books my guests love from memoirs to romance, horror and fantasy, classics to modern crime fiction. We don’t judge genres on this podcast because I don’t believe in guilty pleasure. I only believe in the pleasure of books. I’m so glad you’re here with me. Hopefully these conversations will challenge you to try something new or to rethink a book you read in the past and didn’t really like. Or to reread an old favorite with a fresh perspective. Most of all, I hope this podcast blows up your TBR list.
Thanks for listening. Bookworms.