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Dis donc, ou est la bibliotheque?

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If you wrote like Henry James, your eyes, like his, would point in different directions too.

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Hey, Ernie, let's go have a drink. A very nice drink. That would be very fine.

I read Seize the Day Tuesday. The Red Badge of Courage, too.

Wednesday I polished off A Farewell to Arms.

Thursday I picked up Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady. After I'd been reading awhile, I flipped to the back to see how many pages were in the book. 400 something. I kept reading. Got to page 100. Ah: a quarter through. But it sure didn't look as if a quarter of the book's pages had been turned.

Curious, I started riffling through the pages, and right about halfway through the book I saw the number "4" at the bottom of a page. To my horror, I then discovered the book is written in two volumes. Each 400-some pages.

Holy Chautauqua.

400 pages of James I could have handled. He's a good storyteller, clever with the language—but too clever, for my taste. He comes across as more than a wee bit precious: "They strolled about the park together and sat under the trees, and in the afternoon when it was delightful to float along the Thames, Miss Stackpole occupied a place in the boat in which hitherto Ralph had had but a single companion. Her presence proved somehow less irreducible to soft particles than Ralph had expected in the natural perturbation of his sense of the perfect solubility of that of his cousin ..." Two pages later, James refers to Miss Stackpole's eyes as "occular surfaces." But, as I said, he's a good storyteller and his characters are interesting.

And none of that compares with this line of superb banality from A Farewell to Arms: "The town was very nice and our house was very fine." That's on the third page of the book. On the next page, the protagonist takes his first drink of the novel. It might be interesting someday to read Hemingway and, while reading it, drink what Papa is having before continuing to read. I don't think it would be possible to progress at more than six pages a day.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 8th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC)
" "Elle est toutdroit. Tu y vas toute suite?" "Oui. Il faut que j'aille chercher un livre." "J'y vais aussi. Je voudrais
regarder le journal."

I haven't thought of that since 4th grade French. nThanks for the memories.

While you are at it, I have a page on my real blog where I offer downloads of classical literature. Please check it out and give me some new selections that I can offer my visitors. The stuff I have posted is all material that I have read, but since I'm not well read, I'll entertain any ideas. I have another page where I offer an excellent selection of old market books that offer priceless advice.



Aug. 8th, 2009 12:36 pm (UTC)
You've read everything on that list, but you say you're not well-read? Holy cow. If I can read everything you've read before I assume room temperature, I'll be satisfied and content.
Aug. 8th, 2009 01:41 pm (UTC)
seriously, feel free to add any suggestions and I will put them up.

Aug. 8th, 2009 03:49 am (UTC)
I hated James. In an age of flourish, he wrote with more flourish than necessary.
Aug. 8th, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC)
It's weird. I read Turn of the Screw and Daisy Miller earlier this year and didn't notice any redundant "flourish" (great word choice)—the key word there being "redundant." But reading The Portrait of a Lady is a chore, which is too bad, because it's full of interesting characters, and the plot (so far) is intriguing.
Aug. 9th, 2009 04:00 am (UTC)
James is often best read in small doses, which is perhaps why his short stories like Daisy Miller and The Beast and the Jungle are so well received.

Hemingway, contrarily, is often best read never.

I kid.

Sort of.
Aug. 9th, 2009 12:05 pm (UTC)
Papa says, "Ouch!"
Aug. 9th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC)
Ok, now those eyes are kinda creeping me out. I thought the one on the left (his right)was looking over my left shoulder while the one on the right was looking at me; when I cover one of his eyes and then the other, it seems the eye on the right (his left) is looking over my shoulder and the one on the left (his right) is looking at me. (yes, this is a clear indication of how much I don't want to be dealing with the paperwork in front of me.)
Aug. 10th, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
I knocked off 400 pages of The Portrait of a Lady yesterday, and now my eyes look like that.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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