2009: 80. The Wings of the Dove

“She waited, Kate Croy, for her father to come in, but he kept her unconscionably, and there were moments at which she showed herself, in the glass over the mantel, a face positively pale with the irritation that had brought her to the point of going away without the sight of him.”

The Wings of the Dove, Henry James

Oh, Henry!  Is there anyone more maddening than Henry James? Who else could take a ripping good melodramatic tale (here, an aristocratic couple is too poor to get married, so they arrange for a wealthy young fatally ill friend to fall in love with the man, so they have her money after she dies - with unexpected consequences!), cloak it with real, complicated, true human emotion (so much that you both sympathize with and disdain every character* at one point, and then obfuscate the whole thing under so much tortuous Jamesian prose that we practically miss the whole thing.  I mean, I get it, he is the Master and he does things with words that no one else can or does, and he is so skilled at sketching the slightest nuances of the human behavior and heart, but oh my lord the good stuff buried under so many damn words.  And so, while I appreciate the greatness of The Wings of the Dove, and of poor old sad repressed Henry** - I have made the executive decision allowing myself to put off the other James on the Modern Library Top 100 list until next year.  There is only so much one woman can take.

*well, maybe not poor little rich girl Millie - her you just adore, as you are supposed to.

** Which, general consensus is that he wrote like that because he couldn’t face his own issues (gayness, right), and so he buried the humanity, deep, right?

Date/Place Completed:  May 2009; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Modern Library Top 100, Book Resolutions

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017