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Why You Should Read Henry James
December 21, 2023 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm GMT
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Join writer and comedian James Harris for an introduction to the life and work of the American writer Henry James (1843 – 1916) and his contemporary importance.
“Mr Henry James is the historian of fine consciences.” – Joseph Conrad on Henry James
“We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” – Henry James, The Middle Years
Henry James occupies a curious position in English literature. For those who know his work and connect with it, he’s self-evidently the best English novelist. For those who know it and don’t connect, he’s chiefly known for his difficult and long-winded style. And then there’s a larger group of readers who don’t know his work at all; James, as he lamented in his lifetime, has never been a truly popular novelist.
The writer and comedian James Harris belongs to the first category: He believes James is the finest novelist in the English language and has been reading his works for twenty years (he’s done other things in that time too, to be clear). In this salon, Harris is aiming to provide readers with an accessible introduction to James’ life and work, emphasizing the latter; James was very resistant to his own writing being understood by means of his own biography.
To aid the process, Harris will select and read several different passages from James, aiming to offer flavors of the diverse phases and forms of James’ career. This will include his work in criticism, short fiction, travel writing, and, of course, the novel. Both existing James fans and those who have never read him at all are welcome.
A future reading list will be provided for participants and, if the salon proves successful, there is the chance of further salons on Henry James. For now, sign up to enjoy a taste of the work of the writer many contemporaries knew only as ‘The Master’.
- Four Meetings by Henry James
- The Middle Years by Henry James
- The Art of Fiction by Henry James.
- Where to Start with Henry James by James Harris
- Henry James: An Appreciation by Joseph Conrad
- Reading any other Henry James is also welcomed. Recommended points of entry are the short stories The Beast in the Jungle, The Lesson of the Master, and the short novels Daisy Miller and The Aspern Papers
- If you would like, feel free to watch the film of ‘What Maisie Knew’ (2013) to gain an idea of the challenges of adapting Henry James