Thursday, November 29, 2012

Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American MasterpiecePortrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece by Michael Gorra

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anyone who is at all in love with Henry James, as I am, must read Michael Gorra's book. It is insightful, erudite, challenging, and deeply engaging. Of course it's better if you've read Portrait of a Lady, even many years ago (as many of us have), but I assure you Gorra's elucidations and ruminations will send you to James's masterpiece once more to find and savor all those special moments he discusses. But more than just a story about a story, Gorra's book presents Henry James and his writing as truly ground-breaking, paving the way for the likes of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence in the 'original' use of a character's self-consciousness, and in the presentation of a novel not as a series of events that toss the characters here and there, but as the study of "character" that must respond to, or act upon, life as it happens -- choices that are made that spring from the person's character.

Intelligent in the highest and best sense of that word, sensitive, and full of wonder -- The PORTRAIT OF A NOVEL is simply magnificent.

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