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Words, Words, Words

A catalog of my comments and thoughts on books, reading, and writing as well as anything I come across that seems interesting. I used to sell other people's words at an independent bookstore but now I hope to get by on selling my own.

Daisy Miller and Washington Square - Henry James, Jennie A. Kassanoff

I always feel a little bad when I do not love a well established book. There is a subjective quality to it, I know. Some aspect that follows certain patterns but ultimately is ineffable; a visceral reaction to some aspect of the novel, the story, the characters, the language. It may not be the strongest part of the novel, but it is what strikes you, personally, and cannot really be controlled.


Still, when I put down a three star rating for someone like Henry James, I feel that I must have missed something. That some aspect of the story escaped me, some brilliance in the writing, some structure in the plot or the characters that I did not catch that would change everything. So, understand, I'm rating things from a certain perspective, an age, a generation, a mood.


So, Henry James. I did really try to see a great scheme in this book, and Washington Square actually delivered some interest. Yet, I just couldn't connect with these stories. Maybe I've just read too many of Victorian novels, stories of society and clever dialogue and I just found these two stories full of awful characters that were, even more tragically, uninteresting. 


Daisy Miller I enjoyed for her challenging attitude, the way the titular heroine sought to break convection and make real human connections--even if she wound up too far the other way. Still, she was not very good at it, she seemeed too intent on being interesting that she became boring, and our hero was just utterly spineless.


In Washington Square we have a collision  of ideas and generations, temperments and styles that destroys all involved. I mostly wish that it was a bit shorter. The game is set about fifty pages in and could be resolved in short order from there, but instead it trips on for another 130 pages before reaching its obvious conclusion. Also, there seems to have been this practice of Victorian novels just petering out over decades that always seemed to take away the impact of the immediate events.


That is where I stand now anyway.