Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Master

This week in a secondhand bookshop, I found The Golden Bowl, one of my favourites by Henry James and long missing from my shelves.

I also found The Master, a novel about Henry James by Colm Toibin.

Generally I avoid 'faction' but I picked this up and was entranced. I've read both books in tandem, over my four silent days. 

The Master manages to convey briefly but intensely  the novelist's whole life and character, by focussing on just four years late in James' life, and extending them through reminiscence and  memory. It isn't primarily a fictionalised biography. It is an exploration of  how a writer writes out of the grief and terror and sorrow of his life - and of the disciplined life of observation and work lying behind the novels.

I'm trying to reread my favourite James' novels, picking them up second hand as libraries don't seem to keep 'the classics' any more. Henry James gets a lot of criticism for his detachment, his long, stylised sentences and his occasional obscurity, but time and again I pick up a new book and find it is a reworking of one of his.

Happily I haven't quite finished The Golden Bowl and I'll still be reading it tonight.

Aren't blogs lovely?  I can't go off and have a coffee and chat about these books, my throat's too sore, but I can chat here. 

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