Sunday, February 14, 2010

Top 10 Reactions to Henry James's The Ambassadors

My dear amiga N. has been urging me to read this Henry James novel for years--- um, eleven years. I'll admit that 10 years ago I purchased a beautiful hardcover edition which, alas, ended up as a Goodwill donation when I moved house. Recently (well, three years ago) I bought a paperback version and, at last--- after several false starts---read the whole thing through. Herewith:

1. Elliptical fabulosity, as usual.

2. Strether, dude. (My eyes slide sideways.)

3. Chad Newsome: so Massachusetts-preppie-mom-owns-a-factory-version-of-Brad-Pitt-before-the movie-industry-was-invented.

4. The reasons for Madame de Vionnet's desperation elude me. Even taking into account the century. Even taking into account the charms o' Chad.

5. Maria Gostrey's "little museum of bargains"-- ooo. That was cruel.

6. Waymarsh as Panama hat-wearing cigar store Indian... amusing. If he were alive today, he would shop at Macy's Men's Store (and his estranged wife at Nieman Marcus). But what did Strether see in him in the first place? (My eyes roll ceilingward.)

7. So what did the Newsome factory produce? It could have been washtubs (or worse), but of course James was spot-on to never name It. Note the capitalization. (Which makes me think of Cousin It. Who surely would have used It.)

8. Mrs. Pocock in the Alps: mighty glad she disappeared over those bergs.

9. Some of the later chapters sag. But the ending is brilliant.

10. Merits a reread or three.

I'll be quoting liberally in my Techniques of Fiction workshop next week.