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Thread: H.G. Wells - his non science fiction

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    H.G. Wells - his non science fiction

    I am currently reading A Man of Parts by David Lodge, which is a sort of fictionalized biography of H.G. Wells. I am envious of his ability to get beautiful, young blue-stockings into bed. Apart from that, I was struck by the number of books he wrote. He is mostly famous for his science fiction book, but he wrote a lot of non science fiction too. He seemed to write a lot of books that challenged traditional social conventions. I get the impression that the best of his non science fiction was Kipps, which was autobiographical. He seems to have been very popular in his time, but apart from his science fiction from his early years, he is not read much any more.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    I am currently reading A Man of Parts by David Lodge, which is a sort of fictionalized biography of H.G. Wells. I am envious of his ability to get beautiful, young blue-stockings into bed. Apart from that, I was struck by the number of books he wrote. He is mostly famous for his science fiction book, but he wrote a lot of non science fiction too. He seemed to write a lot of books that challenged traditional social conventions. I get the impression that the best of his non science fiction was Kipps, which was autobiographical. He seems to have been very popular in his time, but apart from his science fiction from his early years, he is not read much any more.
    Wells was a very good writer of the social development of his time but his main concern was the promotion of science in the cause of that development, although his writing underlines the irony of scientific advance's adverse impact on social stability. This is the theme of two of his better novels, Love and Mr. Lewisham and Tono Bungay. An early supporter of socialism, he backed off later when he saw which way it was going but much of his writing sees socialism as a scientific means to achieving the equality that he felt necessary to a more ordered rather than a fairer society. By coincidence, I was reading this morning Somerset Maugham's essay in which Wells features among the writers who Maugham knew well: it contains some interesting observations regarding Wells's relations with women, such as: "You know, women often mistake possessiveness for passion and when they are left, it is not so much that their heart is broken as that their claim to property is repudiated." Wells's scientific view of humanity lead him to tell Maugham: " I'm indifferent to the individual, I'm only interested in people in the mass."
    Nevertheless, for my part Wells did create amusing characters such as Kipps and Mr. Polly among others who make up the dramatis personae of his novels. Maugham's overall view of Wells is that :"He had had an imense influence on a whole generation and had done a great deal to alter the climate of opinion."
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

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    Registered User Poetaster's Avatar
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    I read his novel 'Ann Veronica', which was a proto-feminist novel, as an undergraduate and I liked it a lot. I have been meaning to read more Wells to be honest - his Sci-Fi novels are maybe the ones I'm least interested in.
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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poetaster View Post
    I read his novel 'Ann Veronica', which was a proto-feminist novel, as an undergraduate and I liked it a lot. I have been meaning to read more Wells to be honest - his Sci-Fi novels are maybe the ones I'm least interested in.
    Apart from The War of the Worlds, which I read as a schoolboy, I have only read The Island of Doctor Moreau and The War in the Air among Wells's science fiction novels: the last two being not very good in my view. The first made Wells justly famous but apart from those mentioned I have no inclination to read science fiction in any shape or form. His social comment stories are, to my mind, more relevant, better written and provide a vivid portrait of life in England in the early years of the 20th century.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

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    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    We read Ann Veronica for the book club a while back http://www.online-literature.com/for...g-Ann-Veronica . Most of us thought it was pretty lame, but it had some good points.
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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mona amon View Post
    We read Ann Veronica for the book club a while back http://www.online-literature.com/for...g-Ann-Veronica . Most of us thought it was pretty lame, but it had some good points.
    I haven't read Ann Veronica bit I think 'Kipps' would have been a better choice as it's partly autobiographical and gives a graphic description of what it was like to work as a draper's apprentice in the late 1800s. Like many prolific writers, Wells's output was inclined to be patchy but he was rightly read by a large proportion of the reading public both for his science fiction and his social commentaries.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    According to David Lodge, Mr Britling Sees It Through was H.G. Wells' last good novel. It was quite interesting because Wells started the war writing that German militarism had to be crushed, but then sickened as the war went on an on. Wells was lucky in that his sons were not old enough to fight in that war, yet he imagined himself in the place of a father who had lost a son. Quite a tricky thing to pull off, considering the number of people who had lost sons.

    He later wrote a history of the world. That sounds an ambitious project.

    There was another book he wrote, titled Boon, in which he lampooned Henry James. Henry James had harshly criticized one of Wells' books, and Wells responded by publishing Boon. James never forgave him.

    I am rather surprised Wells is not known more for his novels, because he was huge for about a twenty year period. If it wasn't for books like The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, I doubt I would have heard of him at all. There is another writer called Arnold Bennett that is referred to as being of similar popularity. I had not heard of him before. Perhaps he should have written some genre fiction, horror or detective stories perhaps.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    According to David Lodge, Mr Britling Sees It Through was H.G. Wells' last good novel. It was quite interesting because Wells started the war writing that German militarism had to be crushed, but then sickened as the war went on an on. Wells was lucky in that his sons were not old enough to fight in that war, yet he imagined himself in the place of a father who had lost a son. Quite a tricky thing to pull off, considering the number of people who had lost sons.

    He later wrote a history of the world. That sounds an ambitious project.

    There was another book he wrote, titled Boon, in which he lampooned Henry James. Henry James had harshly criticized one of Wells' books, and Wells responded by publishing Boon. James never forgave him.

    I am rather surprised Wells is not known more for his novels, because he was huge for about a twenty year period. If it wasn't for books like The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, I doubt I would have heard of him at all. There is another writer called Arnold Bennett that is referred to as being of similar popularity. I had not heard of him before. Perhaps he should have written some genre fiction, horror or detective stories perhaps.
    Wells and Bennett were amazingly successful writers who belong essentially to the Edwardian and Georgian period prior to WWII. The Second World War just about knocked the stuffing out of the British and a mood of resignation replaced the confidence with which the reading public had devoured Wells and Bennett's books so eagerly before the war. Interestingly, Maugham who was their contemporary, consolidated his fame by becoming the world's most widely-read author during and after the pre-war period although his last novel was written in 1948.
    You might be interested in W.S. Maugham's The Vagrant Mood in which he discusses Wells, Bennett and James; all of whom he knew well at the height of their fame. He discusses their work and also has some amusing anecdotes concerning all three.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

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