March 24, 2005

A Post for Mom

(Image thanks to these folks. YOU figure out who they are.)

UPDATE: I've added this image 1) because Mom mentions this novel in her comment and 2) because Penguin has chosen to illustrate the cover of its edition with a detail from one of my very favorite paintings- John Singer Sargent's "The Daughters of Edward Arley Boit." Serendipitous, indeed.

My mother is the family Henry James expert, having done her Masters' thesis on him. So if anybody around here would appreciate this, it would be she: Terry Teachout's Girl in Chicago has a post up about James' evil sense of humor.

From what I can see, OGIC illustrates her point well. But I confess that I know next to nothing about James' writing.

Okay, Mom - the floor is yours......

UPDATE: Click on the comments. See what I mean?

Posted by Robert at March 24, 2005 03:40 PM

HJ was awfully funny indeed, and I've often wondered why his humorousness is so rarely mentioned in the critical stuff. Alas I haven't any access to my books at the moment so had better not try to add favorite passages verbatim, but how about
1) the horrible little brother in Daisy Miller and his bratty wisecracks which give the frosty Euro-snob Winterbourne the vapors
2) the scene in The Figure in the Carpet in which the stock "novice" character--the earnest young man who sits at the Master's feet and asks Profound questions--asks the celebrated author what his "method", his "system", or what do you want to call it--his linguistic pattern (wow, that
is probably dating me)--is--is it for instance using words that start with "p"; that's got to be it, he exclaims and rattles off a long list of "p" words; the celebrated author just laughs and says the other fellow hasn't got the right letter.
3) or two of my favorite novels, What Maisie Knew and The Awkward Age, which are--at least I think so--screamingly funny right through, while sending up the moral rot and hypocrisy of Edwardian London Society. Furthermore, with only a slight costume change (and of course the inclusion of a few steamy scenes and some racy vocabulary updates), they could be republished today.

Posted by: Mom at March 24, 2005 04:27 PM

Heyyyy. Now, you cannot write about Henry James without mentioning Edith Wharton, right?

Just saying;-)

Posted by: sadie at March 25, 2005 01:55 AM

This will get me into deep trouble with the Women's Studies people, but I don't think they're in the same league. Mrs Wharton did write some fine novels--
I think The House of Mirth is probably her best--but still not up there with The Wings of the Dove or whatever. All things considered, James' depth of characterization, absolute mastery of language, plot construction--which makes the the story identical with the meaning of the story--, and that sort of undefinable element that qualifies something as a "work of art" are not found in many other writers, IMHO. But here's a puzzle--why do most men refuse to read HJ? They fight it like wildcats--at least the ones I know--
some of them would rather read George Eliot. And what's wrong with George Eliot anyway?

Posted by: Mom at March 26, 2005 02:17 PM
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