Tag Archives: James


Making Literary History, Part II

Writing in The Bookman, Professor William Lyon Phelps expressed his appreciation for Gene Stratton-Porter’s work, but he also made plain his sense of its limitations. It’s not “idealism” that mars her novels, he writes, but “sentimentality,” which reigns over the average human breast even as it revolts the “elite” minority. Phelps did not consider Stratton-Porter […]


The Anarchism of Joseph Conrad

In his 1961 novel, Mother Night, author Kurt Vonnegut famously paraphrased Nietszche, writing: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.” Vonnegut’s American protagonist, Howard W. Campbell, Jr., opens Mother Night by describing himself as a Nazi “by reputation.” During World War II, he has served […]


Stolen Lives

It should be clear by now that Henry James and Upton Sinclair are hardly the only 20th century authors to enjoy generous, wide-ranging afterlives in contemporary works. On the spectrum of life-to-lit authenticity, author Lawrence Thornton’s fictional treatment of Joseph Conrad falls somewhere between Chris Bachelder’s wildly imaginative rumpus with Sinclair, U.S.!, and two relatively […]


Last Words, First Sentence

Never say you know the last words about any human heart.                                                             -Henry James, Louisa Pallant, 1888 Off Next Week: Back to blogging in February with The Cherry Orchard.


An Unusual Rivalry

During their lifetimes, Henry James and his older brother William enjoyed great affection for one another, fame in their own realms and a healthy rivalry – one that appears to have followed them into the cultural afterlife. In Author, Author, David Lodge muses that, if he the opportunity to speak with James now, he would […]

Oscar Wilde's Tomb

The Importance of Being Squeaky Clean

Famously Wilde, the gay writer best known for witty plays like The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husband, as well as the fittingly age-defying novel The Portrait of Dorian Gray died in 1900. While Oscar Wilde’s life and work, then, falls outside the purview of the 20th Century Unlimited, his influence and considerable […]


The Art of Consciousness

Incidentally, a brief scene from David Lodge’s novel about Henry James doubles as a pithy introduction to Colm Tóibín’s The Master. (And, really, since I excerpted Tóibín in Monday’s entry on Author, Author, it only seems fair to do the contrary here.) As a free-ranging discussion turns to Catholicism, James confides in his good friend […]


Tragedy or Comedy?

In the fall of 2003, on delivering the manuscript for his own fictionalized portrait of Henry James, the English novelist David Lodge learned that the writer Colm Tóibín would beat him to the punch. It turned out to be just the first unattended banana peel in a real-life literary farce. The minor tragedy of the […]

Madame X

Americans in Paris

Henry James plays a supporting role in Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough’s The Greater Journey, which might be said to describe the ‘middle act’ in Americans’ longtime liaison d’amour with Paris. After Benjamin Franklin’s crucially timed diplomatic mission to France in 1776, and (about 100 years) before the glittering social circle that swirled around Gertrude […]