Welcome to Part Two of our encore presentation of this Tale for Our Time: E M Forster's 1909 guide to how we live in the twenty-first century. Thanks for all the kind comments about this reprise of The Machine Stops. Lisa Gerlich, a Texan member of The Mark Steyn Club, appreciates the rerun:
I listened to this serialization when you first read the book and have thought of it every day during our self-imposed lockdown. I am glad that you are doing an encore with fresh written observations. More than ever, it is a tale for our time.
In tonight's episode, Vashti ventures out from the confines of her home and its cyber-pleasures back into what remains of the real world:
One other passenger was in the lift, the first fellow creature she had seen face to face for months. Few travelled in these days, for, thanks to the advance of science, the earth was exactly alike all over. Rapid intercourse, from which the previous civilization had hoped so much, had ended by defeating itself. What was the good of going to Peking when it was just like Shrewsbury? Why return to Shrewsbury when it would all be like Peking? Men seldom moved their bodies; all unrest was concentrated in the soul.
"All unrest was concentrated in the soul" - or more explicitly Twitter wars and Facebook de-liking. Whether or not Peking is precisely like Shrewsbury, Forster was surely right that multiculturalism has made much of the planet very unicultural: the once distinctive cities of the western world are now all much of a muchness, in which one is served the same identikit global comestibles by persons who come from everywhere but the country you're in.
If you're growing a bit weary of those news-show shots of how abandoned JFK and the Piccadilly Line and Gare du Nord are, Forster posits a society in which such desolate concourses are a permanent feature. Man has retreated from the world:
The air-ship service was a relic from the former age. It was kept up, because it was easier to keep it up than to stop it or to diminish it, but it now far exceeded the wants of the population. Vessel after vessel would rise from the vomitories of Rye or of Christchurch (I use the antique names), would sail into the crowded sky, and would draw up at the wharves of the south - empty.
We launched The Mark Steyn Club three years ago, and I'm overwhelmed by all those members across the globe who signed up to be a part of it and enthusiastically re-subscribed two Mays back and then re-re-subscribed last May and are sticking with us for a fourth year. Norman Woodworth, a First Week Founding Member, writes:
Mark Steyn makes me laugh like few others. One of the smartest, most aware people on the planet.
Very kind of you, Norman. Mr Woodworth's fellow Founding Member, Carol Ann Vincent, writes from the afflicted state of New York:
God bless you and your family and that lovely woman who introduces your Tales for Our Time.
Yes indeed, Carol Ann. It's all downhill after the intro, but not a lot we can do about that.
As I've always said, membership in The Mark Steyn Club isn't for everyone, and all our daily commentary on the passing scene remains available for everyone. None of it's going behind a paywall, because I want it out there in the world, being read and being heard and being viewed, and maybe changing an occasional mind somewhere along the way.
However, we are offering our Club members a few extras, including the opportunity to join us at sea on the Third Mark Steyn Cruise, on which I'll be doing a live Tale for Our Time, assuming the authorities ever permit us to sail. I'm truly thrilled to see that one of the most popular of those extras these last thirty-six months has been our nightly radio serials. If you've enjoyed our monthly Steyn Club audio adventures and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our special Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
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~My video series of classic poetry (the latest airs next weekend);
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To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget that special Gift Membership. As soon as you join, you'll get access not only to The Machine Stops but to all the other audio adventures on our brand new easy-to-navigate Netflix-style home page.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, whether you like this Tale for Our Time, or think my own machine is creaking and gummed-up, then feel free to comment away below. And do join us tomorrow for the conclusion of The Machine Stops.