I'm so gutted. Henry James is one of the writers closest to my heart so I was very excited about this book. He's not necessarily a writer I've read exI'm so gutted. Henry James is one of the writers closest to my heart so I was very excited about this book. He's not necessarily a writer I've read extensively - because I haven't, of his 23 novels and almost 150 short stories and novellas, I've read maybe half a douzen books- but for many other reasons. He wrote beautiful, sometimes melancholic, other times insanely clever books, he both experienced and wrote at length about living abroad and being an immigrant in England (which, being put in a similar situation, I appreciate), he was loved by some writers who are also extremely close to my heart (such as James Baldwin) and he was a very lonely man (although he was friends with 'anybody who was anybody'). He claimed to be 'a committed bachelor' all his life - he didn't have any publicly recognized committed relationships or children and it was (and still is by some) believed he was a virgin. Whether that's true or not, I can't help feeling a wave of tenderness towards somebody who either was that lonely or was forced to hide a huge part of his life because acting otherwise would endanger his life. After all, these were the years of the Oscar Wilde trials and HJ watch both the trials and Wilde's decline unfold. I don't think we can say, without any shadow of a doubt, that Henry James was gay (any more, for that matter, than we can say that he was not), but for somebody living in those times, it's certainly a possibility (which becomes more plausible when you read the more than vaguely erotic letters HJ wrote to young men).
David Lodge decides to write the bibliography of a straight (not completely asexual, he's shown being in love with the author Constance Fenimore Woolson) Henry James. And that's fine, as I've said before, since there's no definitive proof of either theories, neither is more true than the other. What is, however, unfortunate is the distinct lack of sympathy David Lodge shows towards a potential Henry James who was not as straight as both Lodge and the Victorian public would have liked him to be. This possibility is constantly ridiculed while poor HJ is constantly portrayed as a committed homophobe who is morally appalled by homosexuality - that alone is enough to make me want to punch a wall, but the bomb comes in the last 10 or so pages of the book. The narrative voice suddenly changes and Lodge muses as he describes HJ's last moments:
It's tempting therefore to indulge in a fantasy of somehow time-travelling back to that afternoon of late February 1916, creeping into the master bedroom of Flat 21, Carlyle Mansions, casting a spell on the little group of weary watchers at the bedside, pulling up a chair oneself, and saying a few reassuring words to HJ, before he departs this world, about his literary future. How pleasing to tell him that after a few decades of relative obscurity he would become an established classic, [...] that all his major works and most of his minor ones would be constantly in print, scrupulously edited, annotated, and studied in schools, colleges and universities around the world, the subject of innumerable postgraduate theses and scholarly articles and books (and of course biographies - but it wouldn't be tactful to mention them, or the fact that he would be adopted by a branch of academic criticism known as Queer Theory, whose exponents claim, for instance, to find metaphors of anal fisting in the Prefaces to the New York Edition).
Yes, that's exactly all Queer Theory does, look for metaphors for anal fisting. AKDJGHGDF How can somebody who wrote a textbook on modern literary criticism and theory say such obviously stupid things about a very well established and respected branch of literary criticism? At this point I felt physically repulsed and betrayed by a book alongside which I had travelled for almost 400 pages into the life of a very good man. Why did you have to do this to me? Why the spitefulness? Why is suggesting that HJ might have had feelings for a young man tactless, but suggesting that he had them for a young woman (which David Lodge does at length) is perfectly tactful? I wish I could convince myself that this bitter homophobia is nothing more than bitterness because a few months before his novel was published another fictional account of HJ's life was published by (the openly gay and brilliant) Colm Tóibín - who imaged HJ as gay. Tóibín was better received (it was shortlisted for the Booker) and sold better and Lodge complained almost everywhere and to everyone about how unlucky it was that the two novels were published one after the other. ...more
I am not impressed. I expected so more from a book based/inspired by E.M. Forster. The writing style's watery, the subject matter controversial enoughI am not impressed. I expected so more from a book based/inspired by E.M. Forster. The writing style's watery, the subject matter controversial enough, but decidedly uninteresting, the references to Rembrand and rap too bland and the plot overall pointless. The only way to enjoy reading this book is by reading Howards End first and picking up bits of Forster's book in the mess of trendy postcolonial literary fiction. ...more
I adored Forster's witty lectures on the Novel. I think it's interesting how he speaks in an era when criticism wasn't as divided as it is today, yetI adored Forster's witty lectures on the Novel. I think it's interesting how he speaks in an era when criticism wasn't as divided as it is today, yet he tries to make his readers see outside isms and schools. He is even more revelant today when he urges us to read with our hearts, not just with our minds, because the only true value judgment that we can pass on a novel is one based on affection. This is one of those books that I just can't wait to reread in a couple of years....more
Mixed feelings. Although I understood the point of the language, it was still really hard to figure out what happened in the first part of the book beMixed feelings. Although I understood the point of the language, it was still really hard to figure out what happened in the first part of the book because I hadn't seen the movie and my book didn't come with a dictionary. :/ Language plays a vital part in Nineteen Eighty-Four, but the book is still entirely intelligible. So you can have the best of both worlds (interesting new language and readability) if you want to. But, maybe Burgess didn't want everybody to read his book.
On the other hand, the aspect of the book that I loved most was Alex's passion for classical music. I frequently hear people talking about how a classical education is soooooo valuable, how young people would be more responsible/smarter/better/etc if our education put more emphasis on classical works and classical values etc. This book goes to prove that this is entirely false, classical art doesn't always come with a lukewarm morality, but it does come with an almost endless possibility of interpretation. Monsters can enjoy classical music, good smart students can consider it immensely boring. Art is above all art, a means of expressing one's personal outlook on life, of relating to other people, not the vehicle of moral values. ...more
Really interesting concept, but repetitive after a while. The stories/dreams would have been much more interesting if they actually had something to dReally interesting concept, but repetitive after a while. The stories/dreams would have been much more interesting if they actually had something to do with Einstein (as we tend to dream about people we know or situations we've experienced). A bit more information about Einstein's life would have been interesting too. Overall well-worth reading....more
Oh well this was a distinctively male book. Funny enough, of course, but too focus on proving that scholars have the emotional maturity and interestsOh well this was a distinctively male book. Funny enough, of course, but too focus on proving that scholars have the emotional maturity and interests of teenage boys. As I think back on it, I'm more and more convinced that David Lodge wrote so much pointless sex in this just to make himself seem more interesting.
Read3: November 2012 - I read this another time in the winter of last year (November-December?) for my English Lit course. Milton still frustrates meRead3: November 2012 - I read this another time in the winter of last year (November-December?) for my English Lit course. Milton still frustrates me - though slightly less because of the religious inconsistencies in particular (having now read a more significant bit of English Protestant early modern literature, I have learned to reconcile myself with the fact that Protestantism makes no theological sense for me and just move on..) than because of its - ? - more basic abstruse slipperiness of meaning when it comes to certain episodes or metaphors - for example, the Eve / Narcissus episode in Book 4.
Read1: June 2010 - This book has been the source of so much frustration I can barely bring myself to write a review. I started reading it because disillusioned by how awful Pilgrim's Progress was, I wanted something to regain my hope in English religious literature. Since this was an epic poem and Milton was rumoured to be such a knowledgeable scholar, I assumed it would be a lot like La Divina Commedia (which I absolutely loved). Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Dante is kind and his verses are for the most part highly intelligible (although that might be my really awesome translation), whereas Milton is a cruel sexist who loves creating odd verses with no verbs to prove just how much smarter than you he is. But really, I could have coped with the iambic pentameters if it hadn't been for the numerous theological inconsistencies and general religious nonsense. While reading the first three or four books I've tried as hard as I could to detach myself from the religious context and only take in the poetry, but this proved to be impossible. Paradise Lost is a deeply religious book and you can't not read it without a religious bias. What bothered me most was the fact that Milton rejects all pursuits of knowledge whose purpose is not to find out more about God and that consequently in his quest to justify the ways of God to men, he forgets that the main character of humanity's tragedy is man, not God. Adam and Eve felt lifeless and flat, their thoughts and feelings are lost among lengthy dialogues and endless descriptions of God's chariots.
I still think it was a book well worth reading (unlike John Bunyan's opus), it was just really painful to read. Though I expect that with time, as I forget parts of it, I'll grow to love it more and more....more