You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The Wings of the Dove (The Modern Library Classics)The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first Henry James novel I have read in a decade. I  felt out of practice -- weak and flabby. It is also part of the last triumvirate of novels where his late, most oblique style is in full force. So I confess, at times I would finish one of those two-page paragraphs and not be quite sure who had decided what or what they were going to do about it.

During one dinner party scene -- I almost wrote during "one inevitable dinner party scene"-- I found myself wondering how people could be so involved in nuance and the minutiae of social maneuvering. Then a few nights later I was at a meeting of a non-profit organization I work with and realized that I was caught up in the low-comedy version of the same sort of thing. Breaking News! Henry James Relevant Today!

To sum up:

Mrs. Lowder -- a low-key version of one of James's great social tyrants.

Kate Croy -- she knew what she wanted even if I was never completely clear on that topic

Merton Densher -- maybe the closest James ever came to writing about a boy toy

Millie Theale -- the young, fantastically wealthy American heiress wit the vaguely defined but fatal disease.

I now look forward to the sexed-up film version that came out several years ago, and, yes, I look forward to getting back into the Jamesian habit.

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