Thursday, January 27, 2011
I picked up a copy of The New York Stories of Henry James the other day, stories selected and with an introduction by Colm Toibin, while I was wandering through the SF State University bookstore. Having read Toibin's THE MASTER about three years ago, I have become entranced by his devoted connection to James, and awed by his insights into both James's writing, and writing as a craft, an art, a way of life. I've read that book three times and will do so again soon. In large part, it helped me as I created the persona of James as he appears in the historical novel I just finished writing (about John Singer Sargent -- now looking for a publisher). And now, Toibin has a new, slim volume of essays he has written (or delivered) in the past, titled All A Novelist Needs -- a phrase from one of James's notebook entries, I believe. I am hooked, lined and sinkered. I love Henry James, always have since I read Portrait of a Lady at the age of 19 way back in my college days. My professor - Sue Shafer - was a James scholar, and fed my obsession with hers. I recently joined the Henry James Society, and hope to attend the annual conference one of these years. The best feeling I'm getting from reading both Toibin and James right now is a renewal of my need to write--perhaps a recognition that I've been dawdling, wasting time, not writing. As James said, "One has prayed and hoped and waited, in a word, to be able to work more...That is all I ask. Nothing else in the world." Back to work now.