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m. 10th May 2010 19:11

Re: Henry James
K├Ânemann's edition of The Aspern Papers and Other Stories, which I've been reading, comprises seven tales about art and artists.
The Aspern Papers – a literary critic is ready to do a lot to get into possession of the letters of the (ficticious) late American poet, Jeffrey Aspern. His adversary is an ancient lady, former Aspern's lover, living in Venice with her niece. There are moments of dark comedy and astute observations. And – when I felt that, while subtle and complex, characters' actions and motivations are clear to me, the last sentence puzzled me for a moment.
The Liar – story about a painter and his sitter. From the beginning I was charmed with unexpected similes ("she turned from her other interlocutor with the promptness of a good cook who lifts the cover of the next saucepan" and unexplained epithets ("she was a large bright negative woman"). I'm sure I'm not the first to notice this, but there's one scene strikingly similar to that in The Picture of Dorian Gray. I checked the dates of publication, and The Liar is by two years an earlier work. So either Wilde took an inspiration, or some themes and images simply are in the air at certain times. Both authors made a completely different use of the image, though.
The Lesson of the Master – here we have a master-disciple situation as well as a latent rivalry between two novelists. Again, memorable closing sentence – I might remember it for a while, even though I'm a loser at the Last Line Relay.

And that's all for now. Reading those was a pure pleasure - although I won't pretend there weren't times when I had to read some sentences more than once – but I think I'm taking a break from James for a while. I need something lighter after this rich prose. But I'm sure to come back.

Beth 11th May 2010 3:52

Re: Henry James

Originally Posted by m. (Post 118844)
the last sentence puzzled me for a moment.

...ooh that's a loaded thought! What did you decide about that final sentence?

m. 16th May 2010 7:53

Re: Henry James
Beth – I haven't got to anything conclusive. :-)


When I look at it [the picture] I can scarcely bear my loss – I mean of the precious papers.
Throughout the story the narrator managed to convince me that the papers were his only interest, so I felt surprised why he felt it necessary to emphasize that in that last sentence, rising in fact doubts that the loss of the papers was the only one. What else did he lose? Miss Tina? He might have shadows of feelings towards her he didn't acknowledge but, although this possibility came first to my mind, I can hardly believe it is that. Or maybe? It's just that I completely believed the narrator that "the transfiguration" of Miss Tina was entirely due to his desire to possess the papers. And that she was too unattractive. So maybe it's about losing certain integrity, after all in his pursuit he went too far. Or maybe he was not sure himself what else had been lost, although he could feel the loss, so he chose to speak of what was more tangible to him – the loss of the precious papers.

Beth 17th May 2010 13:45

Re: Henry James

Originally Posted by m. (Post 118964)
I haven't got to anything conclusive. :-)

Know what you mean, m., and I feel the same way. First time through I saw the narrator as a monster. Second time, his unreliability jumped out at me. The more I think on it, the more monstrous he seems. I was reading some wide ranging thoughts on Aspern Papers late last night and really liked what an amazon commentor wrote. To paraphrase, the commentor states that this story and much of James' work is "an exegesis of how people use other people."

Jerkass 8th Dec 2011 17:43

Re: Henry James
The Portrait of a Lady = The Bore-trait of a Lady.

Beth 9th Dec 2011 4:22

Re: Henry James
Hey! You ain't no laydee!

...not liking this one, J'ass?

Jerkass 12th Dec 2011 4:07

Re: Henry James
The Snoretrait of a Lady

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