November 30, 2021

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Including Shock to Your Studying Life

Adding Surprise to Your Reading Life

Just lately I used to be making an attempt to reorganize my books — effectively, that’s a lie, I used to be making an attempt to ORGANIZE my books, which had by no means been organized — and I discovered a duplicate of “Washington Sq.,” by Henry James. It’s a tiny novel, “a slip of a factor,” and was initially serialized, so it’s snappy and swift. (James’s later novels are the alternative: byzantine, delicate, even the subtexts have subtexts, and so forth. They’re great however require deep focus.) Anyhow, I hadn’t learn “Washington Sq.” for a decade, and fortunately dove into what Wikipedia calls “a structurally simple tragicomedy that recounts the battle between a uninteresting however candy daughter and her good, unemotional father.”

Whereas technically correct, that abstract undersells the ebook. It’s a curler coaster. Catherine is the daughter in query, and she or he is an affecting character, even when James compares her mind to “a bundle of shawls.” The battle between Catherine and her father facilities on a scheming man who courts Catherine for her cash. Catherine’s father sees proper by this gold digger, however Catherine falls sufferer to his masculine wiles. The again of my copy has a blurb from Graham Greene that states “Washington Sq.” is “maybe the one novel by which a person has efficiently invaded the female area,” which is offensive to all genders — however a terrific entry into the Backhanded Praise Blurb Corridor of Fame!

I’ll take the possibility right here to share a curious datum about James that will or might not affect your studying. One among his shut buddies was Edith Wharton, and a few years in the past I visited Wharton’s estate in Lenox, Mass. (You’ll be able to take a tour! The gardens are magnificent.) Wharton constructed particular visitor quarters for James on the mansion, together with an en-suite toilet. Once I visited, I couldn’t assist however discover that his toilet had no bathroom. I’m fairly sure the opposite bogs had bathrooms, that are usually thought-about a staple of the lavatory style. Was the dearth of bathroom one thing James had … particularly requested? One should ponder.

Learn in case you like: Meddling in different peoples’ enterprise, “Succession,” bulldozing over lots of of purple flags in pursuit of a crush

Out there from: Penguin Classics (or rating a duplicate on eBay, like I did)


Plunge further into books at The New York Times

Ship publication suggestions to RLTW@nytimes.com

P.S. Professional tip: Should you’re not at present in search of a ebook to learn, you’ll be able to at all times stash these newsletters and discuss with them subsequent time you want one. As Alec Baldwin famously mentioned in “Glengarry Glen Ross”:

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