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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 1798


Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 3:11 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

Welcome to the Board, Gladys. I would like to respond to your comments; unfortunately I have been concentrating on his short stories so I can become familiar with his style before tackling the novels. He certainly makes one think constantly about his wonderful analysis of each character.


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Gladys



Joined: 29 Jan 2016
Posts: 6



PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2016 5:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Castorboy wrote:
...unfortunately I have been concentrating on his short stories so I can become familiar with his style before tackling the novels.
I have only read a few of the short stories and, like you, particularly enjoyed The Aspern Papers.  When you do begin tackling the novels, two of the shortest, easiest and most entertaining reads are The Bostonians (1886) and What Maisie Knew (1897).


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3864


Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 12:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gladys wrote:
Castorboy wrote:
...unfortunately I have been concentrating on his short stories so I can become familiar with his style before tackling the novels.
I have only read a few of the short stories and, like you, particularly enjoyed The Aspern Papers.  When you do begin tackling the novels, two of the shortest, easiest and most entertaining reads are The Bostonians (1886) and What Maisie Knew (1897).


Hello Gladys,

I'm afraid I'm a rare visitor round here these days. I used to be very active both on this board and on its predecessors, but since I started on my own blog, the time I spend here has diminished considerably. Over the last year or two, it has been virtually zero.

Like yourself, I am also a great admirer of Henry James. Indeed, I recently wrote on my blog a rather long post on A Portrait of a Lady.

I haven't yet tried The Sacred Fount, but The Awkward Age is the only novel by James I found unable to finish. It seems written almost as if it were a play, with the entire narrative carried along by dialogue only. James, we know, admired Ibsen, and attempted, quite disastrously from all accounts, to write for the stage. I get the feeling that after the failure of his play, he attempted to write a novel as if it were a play: I can't say I was very convinced.

But once he started writing novels as novels again, he wrote, I think, some of his very greatest works - What Maisie Knew, The Turn of the Screw, and his late threesome (I'm tempted to call it a trilogy) The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors, and The Golden Bowl. I find all these works immensely difficult - partly on account of the knottiness of the prose, but not only for that reason - but also immensely rewarding.

Leavis thought his greatest works we The Portrait of a Lady and The Bostonians. Indeed, he ranked these, alongside Middlemarch, as the three finest novels in the English language. Perhaps there's not much point in creating league tables of these things, but I really was quite overwhelmed by my recent rereading of The Portrait of a Lady, and feel,I should tackle The Bostonians again. Works such as these are not, after all, to be read only once and then put away - these are books to be lived with.

(Edited to correct a couple of mistypes, and the usual autocorrect tomfoolery)



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Gladys



Joined: 29 Jan 2016
Posts: 6



PostPosted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
But once he started writing novels as novels again, he wrote, I think, some of his Gerry greatest works - What Maisie Knew, The Turn of the Screw, and his late threesome (I'm tempted to call it a trilogy) The Wings of the Dove, The Ambassadors, and The Golden Bowl. I find all these works immensely difficult - partly on account of the knottiness of the prose, but not only for that reason - but also immensely rewarding.

I found The Wings of the Dove so engaging and action-packed that it seemed an easy read.  As for The Turn of the Screw, I am inclined to accept James's epithet of potboiler.

Thank you for pointing me to your blog.

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
Leavis thought his greatest works we The Portrait of a Lady and The Bostonians. Indeed, he ranked these, alongside Middlemarch, as the three finest novels in the English language.
 
I love Middlemarch.  The Bostonians, while an easy and enjoyable read, has a low key but fascinating ending that puzzled me for some weeks.


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3864


Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure i take James too seriously when he described The Turn of the Screw as a "potboiler": I suppose it does belong to genre fiction - in this case, the supernatural thriller - but there's no reason of course why a work within a particular genre may not have a serious artistic function. It seems to me that James pursues he many of the themes that one may find throughout his works - th power people exert over each other, the desire to "possess" others (in this instance, "possess" in all senses of the word), and the often obscure motives for seeking this. In many ways, Gilbert Osmond and Madame Merle seem to me prototypes for Peter Quint and Miss Jessel. I personally take the work as seriously as I do James' other works.

I don't, of course, mean it as a criticism when I describe a work as "difficult". Quite the contrary: I enjoy being engaged with complexity!

Cheers for now, Himadri



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Gladys



Joined: 29 Jan 2016
Posts: 6



PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2016 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheRejectAmidHair wrote:
I'm not sure I take James too seriously when he described The Turn of the Screw as a "potboiler": I suppose it does belong to genre fiction - in this case, the supernatural thriller - but there's no reason of course why a work within a particular genre may not have a serious artistic function...I personally take the work as seriously as I do James' other works.

In literature, I look for a denouement that convincingly connects disparate parts in a way that shocks or dazzles: a connection that raises the whole far above the sum of component parts.  I don't see this in The turn of the Screw.  By contrast, it is thoroughly dazzling in Washington Square (1880), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Bostonians (1886), The Spoils of Poynton (1897), What Maisie Knew (1897), The Wings of the Dove (1902) and The Golden Bowl (1904).

I see much the same in Dostoevsky - The Idiot (1869) in particular - and in the Australian novelist Patrick White.  But especially so in the plays of Ibsen: The Vikings at Helgeland (1858), Brand (1866), Emperor and Galilean (1873), Ghosts (1881), The Wild Duck (1884), Rosmersholm (1886), The Lady from the Sea (1888), Hedda Gabler (1890), The Master Builder (1892), Little Eyolf (1894), and When We Dead Awaken (1899).  In all of these, I eventually experience something akin to the light-from-heaven that blinded Saul (later the apostle Paul) on the road to Damascus.  Sometimes this light first shines weeks after finishing the book, and flares even more brightly thereafter.

Not much of a reader for many years, my first revelation came with The Brothers Karamazov and dazzlingly so, much later, with Bronte's Wuthering Heights.  Of course, I do appreciate that everyone reads for their own reasons.



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