Reading Redux

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You probably don't care that much for any one person's reading habits, but I'll share with you my solution to the question as to whether I would read The Portrait of a Lady or Wings of the Dove. I decided in favor of The Spoils of Poynton largely on the basis of this introduction.

It was an ugliness fundamental and systematic, the result of the abnormal nature of the Brigstocks, from whose composition the principle of taste had been extravagantly omitted.In the arrangement of their home some other principle, remarkably active, but uncanny and obscure, had operated instead, with consequences depressing to behold, consequences that took the form of a universal futility. The house was bad in all conscience, but it might have passed if they had only let it alone. This saving mercy was beyond them; they had smothered it with trumpery ornament and scrapbook art, with strange excrescences and bunchy draperies, with gimcracks that might have been keepsakes for maid-servants and nondescript conveniences that might have been prizes for the blind. They had gone wildly astray over carpets and curtains; they had an infallible instinct for disaster, and were so cruelly doom-ridden that it rendered them almost tragic. . . .

The house was perversely full of souvenirs of places even more ugly than itself and of things it would have been a pious duty to forget. The worst horror was the acres of varnish, something advertised and smelly, with which everything was smeared: it was Fleda Vetch's conviction that the application of it, by their own hands and hilariously shoving each other, was the amusement of the Brigstocks on rainy days.

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Hmmm. You'll surely let everyone know how you like it. Oddly, that is one by Henry James that I cannot remember, except that I am pretty sure I have read it. The Portrait of a Lady was the second one I read, after A Turn of the Screw. The Wings of the Dove is probably my favorite of Henry James' novels, and quite possibly my favorite novel of all time. That's a fascinating introduction -- more action in the first few paragraphs than you would probably find in the first 50 pages of The Wings of a Dove. But, then again, doesn't that make it a little less characteristic of his later work? Anyway, I'll watch to see how you like it.

Dear Teresa,

The Spoils of Poynton (1896) appealed both for its introduction and because of its playing with the recurrent theme of unhappy marriage. Also, it's short and I'm not sure in my present state I can conjure up the mental stamina required for the longer, more leisurely works of the later period. I started looking at The Wings of the Dove and decided I needed to keep it for a calmer time in my life. Much like The Golden Bowl it would seem to be a work that rewards close and leisurely reading. I shall get to it, perhaps even this year, but not right now, I think.

Thanks for visiting and thanks for the comments. It's always nice to encounter someone who appreciates Henry James. Rather a rare find in these days.



Enjoy your book!

Hmmmmmm. I would certainly say that the first half of your first sentence is untrue: You probably don't care that much for any one person's reading habits.....

I always love to see what my friends are reading! And I've never even HEARD of this book.

The best thing about the blogosphere is that is punctures any pride I might have about what I have read!


An excerpt from The Wings of the Dove then:



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 6, 2005 7:55 PM.

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