Tag Archives: Henry James

Henry James, “The Awkward Age”

The problem with Henry James is, sometimes I do not understand what he is saying. Usually, eventually, I can puzzle it out, and it’s worth the effort. But on this reading of The Awkward Age, I was repeatedly frustrated by … Continue reading

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Chad Harbach, “The Art of Fielding”

I don’t give a hoot about fielding. Or about pitching. Or catching, or batting, or any of the other elements of baseball that have always seemed excruciatingly dull to me. But people, now — we all like books about people, … Continue reading

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Elizabeth Spencer, “The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales”

Uncomfortable feeling — I have not been fair to this book. Sometimes I forget that, as a reader, you have to bring something to the enterprise: sustained effort, and the ability to keep faith with the author’s intentions. Many books … Continue reading

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Daisy Goodwin, “The American Heiress”/”My Last Duchess”

The late-19th-century cultural phenomenon of American heiresses marrying into the English aristocracy has attracted literary attention from the moment it began: Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady was published in 1880, a mere six years after the foundational match between … Continue reading

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Jane Gardam, “God on the Rocks”

To me, “on the rocks” means on ice, so this title skews flippant. But I don’t think that’s what Jane Gardam intends. Those rocks are literal, since God on the Rocks is set in an English coastal resort with a … Continue reading

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William Dean Howells, “Indian Summer”

The jacket copy calls Indian Summer “one of the most charming and memorable romantic comedies in American literature,” so I took the bait, despite skepticism. I have read  William Dean Howells before and he wasn’t charming. But for once the … Continue reading

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Henry James, “The Coxon Fund”

Since Henry James’ “The Coxon Fund” is a novella rather than a full-blown novel, this post may be a cheat. On the other hand,the long tale is bound and sold independently as part of the “Art of the Novella” series … Continue reading

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George Gissing, “The Odd Women”

Odd as in, not one of a pair. As in, wouldn’t fit on Noah’s Ark. As in, unmarried. George Gissing was a late-nineteenth century English novelist who had come from the lower middle class and knew better than most of … Continue reading

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Wilkie Collins, “The Black Robe”

Wilkie Collins is a second-tier writer. Nothing wrong with that — I’ve gotten hours of entertainment from The Moonstone and The Woman in White. Just that a third reading of his novels probably wouldn’t net you much more than you’d … Continue reading

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Elif Batuman: “The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them”

Whooosh! That sound I hear is the flames taking hold as Elif Batuman burns her bridges, leaving academia behind — or so I thought. After writing The Possessed, with its hilarious accounts of graduate student cliques and academic conferences, how … Continue reading

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