Friday, August 30, 2013

Portrait of a Novel



I like it when writers tackle a single literary work of a major author rather than trying to sum up his entire life.  Here, Michael Gorra dissects Henry James' Portrait of a Lady, which Gorra apparently argues is a critique of American Exceptionalism, as he studies both the author's and Isabel's intents, careful "about the dangers of matching art and life too neatly."  Sounds like a very interesting read!

24 comments:

  1. I might be interested in this one (and the novel itself) if I can squeeze it in. I'm waiting on other books now and may have a short window of time to read something else. I'll order it this a.m. just in case.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'll also alert Strether who is a James expert.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I noticed this also,

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Henry-James-His-Women-Art/dp/1844088928/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377958123&sr=1-3

    Gordon wrote the great bio on Wollstonecraft.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I just ordered the book and will pick up Portrait of a Lady at the local bookstore this a.m. This sounds like the perfect book to read this weekend. I come to James late -- thanks to meander and strether et al. so have never read it.

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n19/james-wood/perfuming-the-money-issue

    ReplyDelete
  5. I believe we read and had a good discussion of "Portrait of a Lady" in the old NY Times forum. A good movie was made from the book around 1990. Here's my HJ reading list:

    Washington Square
    Portrait of a Lady
    The Bostonians
    Daisy Miller


    Started to read Turn of the Screw but found it terribly confusing.

    By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed "The Bostonians" by Merchant-Ivory and consider Dr Mary Prance one of American literature's most fascinating characters.



    I requested a copy of the Gorra book from my local library. Should be a very good read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While reading thru Gorra, I decided to read "The Ambassadors" via audio book. James said it was his best book and, I believe, the critics have agreed with that assessment.

      Delete
  6. Excellent, Trippler. Look forward to the discussion! Funny, I recently picked up a used copy of Portrait of a Lady, which I have never read as far as I remember -- I have never been a big James reader. So I now have two copies of the book. I guess I better start reading while I can.

    I hope Rick can join us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh!

      I just word word from the St Paul library that the volume is missing! Therefore, they cancelled my request for the book.

      I'll check to see if it's available in the County library system or perhaps in the Minneapolis system. Perhaps I can borrow it thru inter-library loan ...

      Delete
  7. Doesn't seem like there's a hurry, Trippler. You and I are the only ones so far who have expressed an interest and I won't have my book for at least another week. Plus, I still hope to read The Portrait of a Lady first. Didn't get very far last weekend. We'll see how I do this weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm interested. I started reading Portrait of a Lady and am struck by how much Henry James reminds of Tolstoy. They were contemporaries, and I would imagine aware of each other. Isabel Archer probably would have found Anna Karenina very interesting ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Apparently, James thought highly of Tolstoy,

    “Tolstoy is a reflector as vast as a natural lake; a monster harnessed to his great subject—all human life!”

    ReplyDelete
  10. Interesting. In that LRB review I posted earlier, he talks about how James hated Hardy's Tess but then constructed a novel in a very similar fashion.

    I'm glad you're reading the novel. I look forward to discussing it as well as the other book. I have to get reading because I can feel the stacks of current affairs books are just around the corner.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I ordered the book. Lindall Gordon's book intrigues me as well as she looks at Henry James' women in a broader sense, but then Gorra probably moves beyond the novel as well.

    I read Washington Square years ago, but wasn't overly impressed. Just seemed like an American version of Balzac's Père Goriot. But, am very much enjoying Portrait of a Lady.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Trippler, I have tried something new ... I downloaded a Kindle reader on my laptop. I now have two paperback copies of Portrait of a Lady, but the type is so small in both it's hard to read for any length of time. I downloaded a free version (in two vols) for my computer and it's so much easier to read. I might actually finish it in time (although a copy of This Town arrived last night, so I better keep at it).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just got an email from the St Paul library that they put an inter-library loan request for me and that I could expect it in a couple of weeks. That's good news. However, such loans have very strict time limits and cannot be renewed. Hopefully, we can read it within that time frame.

      Delete
    2. I still don't have my book but hopefully will get it before you do so I'll have a head start. I'm pretty slow these days!

      Delete
  13. I ordered my copy and should get it in a few days. About halfway through the novel. I was bemused to see that Nabokov was no fan of Henry James. I suppose he didn't like all the psychoanalysis that appeared to lead nowhere, but I like the way James gets under the skin of his characters. Henry and William were brothers,

    http://runningfather.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/henry-and-william-james.jpg

    and seem to share the same passion for analysis.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Here's a little piece on the "James Gang,"

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199503/oh-those-fabulous-james-boys

    ReplyDelete
  15. I've only read the first quarter or so but now that I got past the languid beginning, I'm looking forward to the rest of the book. His women are entirely believable -- I can't help but wonder how much of these characters (male and female) are James himself. I'm looking forward to reading the non-fiction account.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm traveling again next week so if all those redirects are still at the site, I may not post anything until I get back. But hopefully I'll have a chance to finish the novel since I won't have any free reading time much longer.

    ReplyDelete
  17. The article on the James family is interesting. It is noted that Henry approached his novels like a psychoanalyst and brother William approached his papers and lectures like a novelists. Apparently, they enjoyed fiery debates at the dinner table, often using knifes to drive their points home on the table.

    James, like his character Ralph, doesn't seem overly interested in where Isabel is going, as how she gets there.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thanks for that link. I knew about the sister but didn't realize there were other brothers. And yes, I did enjoy the comparison of the two approaches to people.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Started to read Edmund Wilson's "Memoirs Of Hecate County" which at one time was banned as pornography. Some good literature here but the print in the volume is god awful small and strains my aging eyes. I'll read as much as I can before the Gorra book arrives.

    ReplyDelete
  20. My book arrived. Nice to see it is a first printing. Look forward to the discussion.

    ReplyDelete