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Book Title: L'arte del romanzo|
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Reader ratings: 4.5
The author of the book: Henry James
Edition: C. M. Lerici Editore
Date of issue: 1959
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 9.11 MB
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“Criticism talks a good deal of nonsense, but even its nonsense is a useful force. It keeps the question of art before the world, insists upon its importance. ”
― Henry James
The short essay Criticism, the focus of my review, is part of this collection which includes The Art of Fiction, The New Novel, and individual essays on Balzac, Trollope, Flaubert, Zola and Emerson. The reason for my choice should be obvious to anyone reading this since so much of what we do on this international internet site is write reviews. Below are a number of Henry James quote from the essay along with my more personalized comments:
“If literary criticism may be said to flourish among us at all, it certainly flourishes immensely, for it flows through the periodical press like a river that has burst its dikes.” --------- With the advent of international internet sites such as this one, a thousand times truer now than back in 1893 when Henry James wrote these words. Even as recently as the 1980s, if a reader wished to read a review of a particular book, perhaps one, two or three reviews could be located in newspapers or magazines. But nowadays with a few clicks, dozens of reviews are available. For an avid reader and lover of books and book reviews, our brave new 21st century world is a literary paradise.
“What strikes the observer above all, in such an affluence, is the unexpected proportion the discourse uttered bears to the objects discoursed of – the paucity of examples, of illustrations and productions, and the deluge of doctrine suspended in the void; the profusion of talk and the contraction of experiment, of what one may call literary conduct.” ----------- Sounds like Henry James much prefers individual book reviews chock-full of examples and quotes rather than literary theory regardless of the theoretical slant. My preference also. I recall scanning shelves and shelves of books of literary theory when at Powell’s in downtown Portland. I looked through dozens of volumes written by such as Roland Barthes, Terry Eagleton and Northrop Frye. But, darn, I couldn't find even one book that interested me. I had to admit theorizing about literature leaves me cold. When it comes to novels and short stories, what I enjoy and find most helpful are well-written, insightful book reviews.
“It is a gift inestimably precious and beautiful, therefore, so far from thinking that it passes overmuch from hand to hand, one knows that one has only to stand by the counter an hour to see that business is done with baser coin.” ---------- Like any other literary form - novels, short stories, plays, poetry – writing good book reviews takes not only technical proficiency and lots of practice, but a love of the craft. And as Henry James notes, an outstanding review has an undeniable beauty and charm.
“Yet not only do I not question in literature the high utility of criticism, but I should be tempted to say that the part it plays may be the supremely beneficent one when it proceeds from deep sources, from the efficient combination of experience and perception.” ----------- When James says “proceeds from deep sources” I take this to mean when a reviewer is widely read and has carefully read and reread the book under review, their reflections and insights, if articulated clearly, carry a measure of weight and are worthy of serious consideration.
“In this light one sees the critic as the real helper of the artist, a torch-bearing outrider, the interpreter, the brother. The more the tune is noted and the direction observed the more we shall enjoy the convenience of a critical literature.” ---------- One especial great value a reviewer can provide to the reading community – write a review of an overlooked or under reviewed book.
“To lend himself, to project himself and steep himself, to feel and feel till he understands, and to understand so well that he can say, to have perception at the pitch of passion and expression as embracing as the air, to be infinitely curious and incorrigibly patient, and yet plastic and inflammable and determinable, stooping to conquer and serving to direct – these are fine chances for an active mind, chances to add the idea of independent beauty to the conception of success.” ---------- Henry James expresses so elegantly how a reviewer is wise to be as open and receptive as possible when reading, even if that book happens to be of a type generally not read by the reviewer.
“Just in proportion as he is sentient and restless, just in proportion as he reacts and reciprocates and penetrates, is the critic a valuable instrument; for in literature assuredly criticism is the critic, just as art is the artist; it being assuredly the artist who invented art and the critic who invented criticism, and not the other way round.” ---------- This James quote really underscores how each review reflects the reviewer as much as the author – so much of one’s experience with literature is a matter of individual taste. And this dynamic is a prime reason why new reviews of even a well reviewed book can still contain great value.
“That of the critic, in literature, is connected doubly, for he deals with life at second-hand as well as at first; that is, he deals with the experience of others, which resolves into his own, and not of those invented and selected others with whom the novelist makes comfortable terms, but with the uncompromising swarm of authors, the clamorous children of history.” ---------- Henry James appreciates how a dedicated book reviewer can make a lifetime commitment to reading books and writing about books. No need to write in any other form; writing book reviews is quite enough. I agree completely!
"Life is too short for bad books. And you can quote me on that!"
- Glenn Russell
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Read information about the authorHenry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction. He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death. He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the encounter of America with Europe. His plots centered on personal relationships, the proper exercise of power in such relationships, and other moral questions. His method of writing from the point of view of a character within a tale allowed him to explore the phenomena of consciousness and perception, and his style in later works has been compared to impressionist painting.
James insisted that writers in Great Britain and America should be allowed the greatest freedom possible in presenting their view of the world, as French authors were. His imaginative use of point of view, interior monologue and unreliable narrators in his own novels and tales brought a new depth and interest to realistic fiction, and foreshadowed the modernist work of the twentieth century. An extraordinarily productive writer, in addition to his voluminous works of fiction he published articles and books of travel writing, biography, autobiography, and criticism,and wrote plays, some of which were performed during his lifetime with moderate success. His theatrical work is thought to have profoundly influenced his later novels and tales.
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