I'm mining a rich seam of higher brow reading right now which shows no sign of abating and I'm enjoying it while it lasts so make no apology.
Suddenly contemporary fiction won't do.It happens.
Who decides by the way which brow each book comes under ? It's the old literary canon chestnut.
I've been brow-sing one of those old 1970's Thames & Hudson 'Writers and Their World' series on Henry James, full of pictures and interesting anecdotes as well as a biography and I read that he met George Eliot and wrote home.
' she is magnificently ugly - deliciously hideous..a low forehead, a dull grey eye, a vast pendulous nose, a huge mouthful of uneven teeth and a chin and jawbone qui n'en finissent pas...'
I'm right off the man now and starting to feel less sympathy for Henry's debilitating bouts of constipation (and will hold back on telling him about the prunes,) so it was a good thing he quickly redeemed himself in the next sentence,
'No in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which in a very few minutes steals forth and charms the mind, so that you end, as I ended, in falling in love with her. Yes, behold me in love with this great horse-faced bluestocking'
Henry James gets quite a bad press around, for want of a better description, the ordinary reader.
Wordy in the extreme, convuluted and long-winded. Why use ten words when a hundred will do.So much so that one Endsleigh Salon stalwart you may recall begged us not to include him in our classics reading project.
So it was with some trepidation that I embarked on Washington Square.I'm not sure why I was trepidated (nb grammar police, new word usage) because I'd read The Portrait of a Lady and loved every word.
Anyway Susan Hill had bigged up Washington Square, given it good press as a readable Henry but I bet I wasn't the only one to order a copy, find I already had one on the shelf, send off the duplicate to a friend and then leave mine sitting unread until now.
Embarking on a Henry James is indeed like setting full sail into the teeth of a force eight gale of words.I'd be gasping for breath after the first pages of great long sentences, pulling on my life-jacket to avoid drowning in the prose style and thinking, what was all that about. Then suddenly that Henry James thing happened and I started to sail along quite calmly, in fact with the wind now behind my sails I proceeded to fair clip along at a fine rate of knots.
I'll stop the sailing thing now because, in case it doesn't show, I've not the first clue about it.
Previous Henry James experience beginning with The Turn of the Screw, ending with The Portrait of a Lady and with nothing inbetween, so I'm quite pleased with myself over finishing Washington Square and I'm really going to try more.Honestly I really am because once I forget that Henry is supposed to be wordy and convuluted I'm into the swing of the reading and I quickly warm to his perfectly formed characterisations, his eye for the finer nuances of the social scene and his delicious use of irony.
The man is wicked and before you know it I'm hooked.
More on Washington Square soon and yes Henry, I like the cut of your jib, so should I risk The Wings of the Dove or is it more likely to be an albatross?