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by David Lodge

Like Colm Tóibín's THE MASTER, David Lodge's novel is an exploration of the last years of Henry James. Beginning in the 1880s, when James has become an internationally famous and successful novelist, Lodge takes the reader deeply into the writer's life as he struggles with the disjunctions between his life and his work, and
Download Author, Author epub
ISBN: 0436205432
ISBN13: 978-0436205439
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Contemporary
Author: David Lodge
Language: English
Publisher: Secker & Warburg; New Ed edition (2004)
Pages: 400 pages
ePUB size: 1291 kb
FB2 size: 1809 kb
Rating: 4.9
Votes: 560
Other Formats: mobi mbr lrf lit

One of my favorite books. Henry James'last years were fascinating and often sad.
generation of new
I'm not a fan of Henry James writing, though I've been pleasantly surprised by liking most movies made from his stories. And yet David Lodge wrote a fascinating story about James and some of the people close to him. I have come away from Lodge's tale with an appreciation for James' lessons learned hard at the hands of theatre: learning to construct a clear scenario for each part of a play was James' best lesson which he then transferred to novel-writing. He reinvigorated his literary career by applying that perception. Even though it took him five brutal years of failing on the stage to learn that, it appears he made better lemonade out of the distasteful lemon he had created.
My own mental picture of James is that of a decent guy who spent too much time alone and unattached notwithstanding his close friendships. As he went back and forth with his theatre associates revising his plays I began to wonder if that might have been the most feedback he'd ever gotten about his complicated writing style up to that point. It probably was. I can only wonder and regret what else he might have learned about life as much as writing if he had written something with Constance Fenimore Woolson - and especially if he had found the strength and humility to marry his dear Fenimore. (Now there's someone to mourn...and maybe look up her writings about the South under Reconstruction, so called.)
And I feel bad that James appears to have ended his long life and career thinking he had not been a success, if not a partial failure by his own lights. I found myself thinking of Keats' tombstone enscription, Hear lies a man whose name was writ upon water - painful to think of that for either of them.
My last two-cent observation is James' desire not to beat down his friends who didn't write nearly as well as he. The scene where he wondered about his close friend George du Maurier's naive scepticism. It reminded HJ uncomfortably of his own father's faith which came under the influence of Swedenborg, a man I'd barely heard of. Suffice it to say, HJ was amazed at how intelligent, thoughtful people coild reject Christianity and then replace it with something embarrassingly naive. In du Maurier's Peter Ibbetson, his beloved dies and returns to PI in a dream with a reassuring word about the next world: "Ever thus may a little live spark of your own individual consciousness be handed down mildly incandescent to your remotest posterity." Little live spark...mildly incandescent...remotest posterity?! I'm glad James recognized it is not enough to reject a belief in something you should replace it with something better or at least not dreadfully implausible such as that. Good grief!
Mr. Lodge has gotten me interested in the story of a writer I never thought I'd care much about and he deserves a lot of credit for pulling off that feat.
A sympathetic and interesting historical novel about the great novelist Henry James. This book is somewhat different from most of Lodge's prior work, which tends towards relatively gentle satire and irony. Lodge's James is an outsider, an aesthete dedicated to his art while simultaneously constrained by what appears to be a real streak of prudery. A man whose only passion appears to be his artistic vocation, James' disinterest in a good deal of normal human life at a personal level is accompanied by real dedication to psychological understanding and careful description of human relationships. To a great extent, this book is an effort at a Jamesian description of James and a rather sympathetic one at that. Lodge focuses on 2 major episodes in James' life; his death and his unsuccessful attempts to become a popular playwright. The latter episode, which resulted in tremendous disappointment and an episode of actual humiliation, occupies much of the book. Lodge shows the interesting way in which aspects of James' life are mirrored in some of his work. I suspect also that aspects of the organization of book and some of the different stylistic devices used in different parts of the book mirror the different ways in which James approached his work over the course of his career. The climactic sequence showing the failure of James playwriting attempts, for example, is presented in a series of play-like scenes. A number of other interesting figures pass through the book, including members of James family, the popular writer and artist George Du Maurier, and friends of James like the now largely forgotten writer Fenimore. Some notable individuals, like the young HG Wells and Bernard Shaw, make small appearances. Like all of Lodge's books, this novel is written very well.
I'm not a huge fan of Henry James, but David Lodge does a fair job of channeling him in this somewhat fictionalized bio, written in a formal, Jamesian style. It focuses mainly on two aspects of James's life--his failed attempts as a playwright and his friendship with George Du Maurier, a more successful but less gifted writer. James struggled between good will toward his friend and jealousy of Du Maurier's popularity. He could never have imagined that The Portrait of a Lady and The Wings of the Dove would be made into major motion pictures later in the twentieth century. Lodge characterizes James as a celibate homosexual, married to his art, who never realized commercial success during his lifetime. On the other hand, although Du Maurier created the character Svengali whose name has entered the lexicon, his work has not stood the test of time, but his granddaughter Daphne's has. There are several other well-known writers of the period, including Edith Wharton, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and H.G. Wells, who peripherally figure into James' life. It was especially interesting to me, though, that Du Maurier's grandchildren by his daughter Sylvia were the boys who inspired J.M. Barrie to write Peter Pan. Also, James's agent's daughter married Rudyard Kipling. What a small, interconnected, and talented world Henry James inhabited.