July 15, 2013

My Summer of Henry James--

As you may have noticed from a number of my recent postings, I have been reading a lot of Henry James this summer.  Typically, every couple of years or so I pick an author and read as much of their oeuvre--in the order written--as I can.  This is an immensely rewarding experience, and each author that I have done this with has ended up becoming a 'favorite' author.  To date, I have done this Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, and Edith Wharton.  This summer I decided to tackle the novels and some of the shorter fiction of Henry James.

I had read some of Henry James's novels when I was a much younger man and in the U.S. Coast Guard in the early 1970s.  And I must confess that I struggled mightily and ultimately gave him up.  Looking back now, I realize that I simply wasn't ready for the writing of the like of Henry James, George Eliot or even Edith Wharton.  I am a much more thoughtful and close reader and now love immersing myself in not only enjoying the novel that I happen to be reading, but endeavoring to understand authorial intent, and how the author and his/her works fit within the literary movements of the day.  I now also read a significant amount of literary biographies and criticism.  All of this enhances and enriches my overall reading experience, makes me better able to recognize and interpret shifts in writing styles, and has made me a much more mature and critical reader overall.

Here is the reading list that I'm working from--

Roderick Hudson (1875)*
The American (1877)*
The Europeans (1878)*
Daisy Miller (1878)
Washington Square (1880)*
The Portrait of a Lady (1881)*
The Bostonians (1886)*
The Princess Casamassima (1886)
The Aspern Papers (1888)*
What Maisie Knew (1897)
The Turn of the Screw (1898)
The Awkward Age (1899)
The Wings of the Dove (1902)
The Ambassadors (1903)
The Golden Bowl (1904)

Those titles followed by an asterisk (*) are novels/novellas that I have read so far this summer, and many of them have been reviewed in recent postings below.  Also, I have acquired most of these novels in hardcover editions as I know that will be revisiting them for the rest of my life.  It was fiendishly difficult to find hardcover editions of some of them, e.g., The Ambassadors, but by diligently browsing on-line I have managed to fill out my library quite nicely.

Additionally, in an effort to complement my summer of all things Jamesian, I have picked up the following two books--

The Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece, by Michael Gorra (Liveright, 2012, 416 pp.).  Gorra's book focuses on James and his writing of The Portrait of a Lady.  This book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 2013, and comes very highly touted.


The Master, by Colm Toibin (Scribners, 2004, 338 pp.).  Toibin's book is a fictional account of James in Europe at the very height of his creative powers, and also comes highly recommended.

I invite you to stay tuned as I share my reading experiences, and thoughts and observations associated with the novels, novellas and short stories of Henry James.  Perhaps some of my postings will inspire you to read a James novel in the near future, or maybe you'll start a summer reading project with an author that you'd like to get to know better.  So, what are you reading this summer?

No comments:

Post a Comment