Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Well, I've managed to make it to page 251 of Henry James's The Ambassadors, though I'm not quite sure how. I feel as if I never manage to concentrate on this book for more than 3 minutes at a stretch. Nonetheless, I seem to have advanced into the heart of the plot . . . and even to almost understand what's going on, possibly by osmosis.

One thing I'm getting tired of is the sophisticated-dangerous-woman-in-midlife-versus-delicate-toylike-teenage-ingenue scenario that keeps turning up in HJ novels. Maybe, having reached the ranks of dangerous woman in midlife, I'm beginning to think he gives us too much credit for sophistication. Frankly, if one defines the word as "a naive female," I'll be an ingenue till I die.

Still, I keep reading. Maybe sometimes that's easier with a book that doesn't matter to me so much. I had to stop rereading George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss because I didn't, for the 20th time, want to suffer through watching poor, hapless Maggie Tulliver lose her reputation and drown. I have a friend who re-watches movies like that: he shows up at the cinema, sits through the part he wants to see again, and then leaves before the film's over. This method also works well with biographies that I reread often. I just find it too distressing to watch Dickens or Keats or Woolf die over and over again. It's a sentimental reaction, but oh well. When I love a writer, and care about how his or her mind works, I can hardly bear to watch it stagger to a halt.

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