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Thread: A Cry for Help

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    Lost in the Fog PabloQ's Avatar
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    A Cry for Help

    I'm not one to give up on books. I always try to finish what I start and typically I can always enjoy the book on some level whether it's the storytelling, the plot, a particular character or whatever. I'm currently struggling to keep interest in "The Wings of the Dove". James' language is incredibly cumbersome and I find the story thus far to be uninteresting, the plot missing, and the characters as bland. I plan to make it to the end of the first volume, but can anyone give me good reason to stick with this work to the end?

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    I can't remember now if it was The Golden Bowl or The Wings of the Dove, but I gave up. I think it was The Golden Bowl.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    Lost in the Fog PabloQ's Avatar
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    Modified Cry for Help

    I continue to slug it out with this work. I made it through the first volume (Books 1-5) and it ended well enough to continue on. But now I need some feedback on Henry James the writer. I continuously run into these brutally long paragraphs where James leads me through the thought patterns of the characters. These paragraphs tend to both obscure the true personality of the characters and to impede the progress of the narrative. Once James lets his characters speak, I find them interesting and I want to know more about them and what happens to them.

    Anybody have some insights on how to read James to help a reader through the tough times of these burgeoning paragraphs?

    Fun question: Anybody know what Henry James' record for commas in a sentence is? Has to be over a dozen.

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    Lost in the Fog PabloQ's Avatar
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    Finally Finished

    I made it to the end of this novel and I have to admit that it got better. James seems to be content to let the reader interpret the personalities and events, something that as readers we probably tend not to appreciate. This is the second James novel of 3 that intend to read in sequence and I'm left wondering about the nature of James's female characters. In this novel, we have Kate Croy who seems to be morally corrupt at some level. On the other hand, we have Milly Thiele who is the dove. She is rich and dying. I'm not sure that I ever really appreciated either one of them.
    James doesn't seem to creater particularly strong male characters. I know this is just two books (this plus Portrait of a Lady), but the male characters seem to be supporting characters even when circumstances force them into the center of the action. Once Kate has pushed Merton Densher into this plot to fleece Milly of her inheritance, he seems neither strong enough to refuse Kate or to fully exploit the situation with Milly. He spends an inordinate of time indecisively thinking about circumstances rather than acting to move the situation to his advantage. He gains some points in the end by forcing Kate to be the one to complete the scheme, but by then he is not the kind of character that I can care about one way or the other.
    Next up is The Ambassadors. I'm hoping that the writing style is more readable than "Wings". I'm looking for characters I can respect on some level. I'm looking for some reason to recognize James contribution to American literature. I'm beginning to feel as though James was an American writer of European novels and although influential on the American novel, I don't see his stories as particularly American in nature.

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    "James doesn't seem to creater particularly strong male characters."

    - No kidding. Although sometimes they do finally explode. After all this tiptoeing around, all this delicate language that seems trying to talk around, over, and under the unspeakable, Densher finally just asks Kate to come to his room (I haven't read further, but I hope to God they finally get it on).
    And, once he does, you just get the feeling all this delicate language, all this inversion of phrases, and pseudo-specificity of emotional tones is ... well... just there to cover up a big NOTHING.

    Me, too, I almost gave up. I felt like the whole of Volume One does nothing but set things up for Volume Two. I'm halfway through that now, and don't expect much action... just enjoying (finally, now it's in place after 400 pages) the scenario.

  6. #6
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PabloQ View Post
    In this novel, we have Kate Croy who seems to be morally corrupt at some level ... Once Kate has pushed Merton Densher into this plot to fleece Milly of her inheritance, he seems neither strong enough to refuse Kate or to fully exploit the situation with Milly. He spends an inordinate of time indecisively thinking about circumstances rather than acting to move the situation to his advantage. He gains some points in the end by forcing Kate to be the one to complete the scheme...
    I see both Kate Croy and Milly as angelic: morally incorruptible. Kate, whose morals burst conventional boundaries asunder, acts for the good of both Densher and the dying young heiress. Merton is too small-minded to see the big picture behind Milly's beneficent wedding gift to the English lovers and, besides, he's obsessed with her who has just died for him.

    The ending as Kate turns to the door with her headshake is a tragedy of the same order as in Washington Square.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

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    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PabloQ View Post
    I'm not one to give up on books. I always try to finish what I start and typically I can always enjoy the book on some level whether it's the storytelling, the plot, a particular character or whatever. I'm currently struggling to keep interest in "The Wings of the Dove". James' language is incredibly cumbersome and I find the story thus far to be uninteresting, the plot missing, and the characters as bland. I plan to make it to the end of the first volume, but can anyone give me good reason to stick with this work to the end?
    Skip to about 250- that's when the plot really comes into play. I couldn't stop reading after that.

    You get used to the language- it's not as thick as the language of The Golden Bowl.

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    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by Gladys View Post
    I see both Kate Croy and Milly as angelic: morally incorruptible. Kate, whose morals burst conventional boundaries asunder, acts for the good of both Densher and the dying young heiress. Merton is too small-minded to see the big picture behind Milly's beneficent wedding gift to the English lovers and, besides, he's obsessed with her who has just died for him.
    An about face. Milly is angelic and acts for the best, and is vindicated! Tragically, Aunt Maud is right that Merton ultimately can do nothing to upset her plans for Kate.

    Kate, like her father Lionel, is clever and attractive beyond belief but rather short on honour. In the ends she virtually kills the more honourable Merton Densher by her duplicity. He forfeits Milly's money and Kate's hand in marriage. He is left with love for a dead woman and a guilty conscience.

    Listening this month to the downloaded mp3 "The Wings Of The Dove - Henry James - BBC Classic Serial" was an eye opener. Has any else heard this?
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

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