Thursday, March 25, 2010

Winging it

A couple of weeks ago, I tried reading a late Henry James novel called The Sacred Fount which I couldn't begin to understand, and I felt vindicated in giving up on it when I learned from Wikipedia that my bafflement was shared far and wide. I'm not really sure the fault was all mine -- I came under the impression that James did not really have a firm idea in mind.

I moved on to The Wings of a Dove, where the idea is very firm, and where I think we can shift the blame for incomprehension back to my shoulders. I'm not really qualified to discuss it. All I could discuss, if I were of a mind to, is that it is damnably difficult to follow. It's written in his late period, when his style became radically different and began its long prefiguration of modernism, which is to say his usual way of doing things no longer interested him. He was no longer satisfied to write sentences that described character or dress or motivation, but to capture the grainy specifics of moments, and the multiple complexities of what any given individual is thinking right this very seciond. Or at least I think that's what he's doing. I'm not really sure.

I'm not uninterested and I'm not bored; I'm intrigued but plodding along in a state of partial if not complete bafflement, and I find myself looking forward to scenes where something really important happens -- which was actually occurring when last I left it.

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