Sunday, April 25, 2010

Henry James

So I'm reading another book by Henry James, The Golden Bowl, and I dislike this one as well. Call me a Philistine if you want. I only read them out of a sense of duty, because critics of the last hundred years have praised his work, and found much of value in it. Me, I'm uninterested in his characters, who seem to me to be boring, tightass snobs of another time and place, who seek meaning in little glances and exchanges that I find tedious. I just don't care about them, so the little things they do don't matter.

There are many writers I like, even of the era of James. I'm at a loss to explain the fascination people have with his work. His paragraphs are lengthy and put together like a stone pyramid, but the filigree decorations are repetitious and arcane. His characters live in an artificial world that needs to be swept away, and none of them seem like they ever have any real fun. They are so constrained it's a wonder why they bother to live and reproduce.

Goodness kows, I've given him a fair shake, but he's like one of those boors at a party who tries to impress you with his detailed knowledge of something so uninteresting that you seek the exit. Yeah, you capture that world, fella, but who wants to live in it, and why should we bother with it? There are many other writers with better lessons of life, and who don't put one to sleep when reading the work.

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