Edith Wharton a wonderful hostess, whose guests (including Henry James) remember her as “kindness and hospitality incarnate.” Now you too can be the perfect literary host - just follow Kate Bolick’s guide, “The Guesthouse of Mirth.”
There arose a sense, as it were, during my progress, that despite James’s attention to circles of social intercourse that couldn’t, in good faith, be called anything but rarefied—that still, his plots are marked by the basest sort of pecuniary maneuvers, the grimmest cruelties. A kind of wary discomfort, furthermore, in encountering such troubling portraits surfaced throughout my reading, nevertheless it does not follow that James’s depictions, while necessarily harsh, contained untruths. Indeed I have seen, in my limited three decades of existence—encompassing in their span very little fortune-hunting and almost no underhanded impositions on consumptive heiresses—a great deal, that is to say almost limitless, social rigidity and, one must also add, capacity for greed and selfishness, all of which are shown by James in his process of storytelling so that, if we must be honest, it has both agonizing and resonant effects on the reader.
Sometimes, when you read a lot of work by a single writer, you end up writing unconscious imitations of their work. The reliability of this effect raises an ourobouric possibility: what if you reviewed a writer’s fiction in their own style? At The Awl, Sarah Marian Seltzer reviews Henry James as Henry James. You could also read Charles-Adam Foster-Simard on binge-reading James’s fiction.
We take for granted the difficulty of ascending to the empyrean heights of genius, but descending into the “majesty of mud” poses its own challenges for those unpure hacks not blessed “with all the might of gravitation.” Or to put it in distinctly non-Augustan terms, hackin’ ain’t easy.
Matt Seidel, “Eminent Hacks”
I sometimes wonder how the great writers of the past would handle the Twitter predicament. Would they ignore it or engage and go down the rabbit hole? Who are the really unlikely tweeters from literary history? Would Henry James, whose baroque sentences could never have been slimmed down into a hundred and forty characters, have disdained Twitter?
Twitter lets writers think in public, and it’s changing the way we write, Thomas Beller argues in The New Yorker.
Pantone has rendered The Paris Review’s literary paint chips literal with their new line of color schemes drawn from the homes of great authors.
I haven’t the least idea what such young ladies expect a man to do. But I really think that you had better not meddle with little American girls that are uncultivated, as you call them. You have lived too long out of the country. You will be sure to make some great mistake.
Henry James, Daisy Miller