Sunday, October 18, 2020

Washington Square by Henry James


 Here is Sephardic Spanish music from the Middle Ages.

Below is an acrylic painting.  I call it "Birds Flying Over Flowers."

Well, I finally set up my Etsy shop.  I'm selling my paintings there.  It's called FongArtStore.  Yes this is a shameless plug.



I had forgotten why Henry James is one of my favorite authors because it's been a few years since I've read him. This novel reminded me.

As the blurb says, a successful Doctor becomes the unwilling widower of his brilliant wife, whom he adored. His infant son, upon which he lavished so much love and hope, also dies. All that is left is a daughter who is destined to disappoint him.

Catherine turns out to be everything the Doctor expects of her. She is unattractive and simple minded. He shows her no affection and plenty of contempt. Therefore is it any wonder that the first man who comes along and showers her with attention is met with Catherine's immediate amazement, then devotion?

But is this young man, Morris Townsend, as good a person as his looks are handsome? We don't know at first. Catherine's father thinks he does and makes it clear that if Catherine is so stupid as to marry an obvious gold digger, it won't be his money the man will be digging.

Hence begins a battle of the wills of three people. Four actually, because the Doctor's sister, Mrs. Penniman inserts herself into the drama with all the thrill of an aging widow who yearns to be part of a romance. Another way of putting it is to say that Lavinia Penniman is a tiresome busybody that further muddies the waters with all of her vague insinuations and half said implications and assertions.

It eventually becomes evident to everyone that the future is going to become bleak for everyone involved. I am not going to say more in case people haven't read the book.

What I love most about James' writing is is masterful use of language and perspicacious psychological studies. We see inside everyone's heart. We see the thoughts behind the words and actions and understand them to be dead on.

And he's suspenseful in his own way, because I read this short novel in two days because I couldn't put the book down for wondering how it was all going to turn out. 

 Puddle up my sleeve.  He likes to do this while I'm on the computer.




Brian Joseph said...

Hi Sharon- I have not read this but I am currently in the middle of The Golden Bowl. I have previously read The Turn of the Screw one The Portrait of the Lady. As you say, James does get into his characters heads and digs into all sorts of complex thoughts and motivations. His use of language is truest unique too.

Have a great day.

mudpuddle said...

i can't say i actually hate James, but i've never read any of his books... i think my brain is not up to deciphering his extraordinarily complicated sentences... to be a little sarcastic: why express yourself in easily comprehensible language when with a bit of thought you can totally confuse them beyond any possible hope of apprehension... i regard him as the Sargasso Sea of lit, haha... but congratulations for reading him; i admire your perceptive abilities!

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Brian

I have the complete Library of America collection of James' work. I've read most of it years ago, but after reading Washington Square I realize how sorely I miss reading good literature.

Nonfiction and mystery are all very well, but I need to get back into language that elevates my mind.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi mudpuddle,

I have always loved James. I don't know why. I know his sentences can be long as a paragraph, but I really like word meanings and I like the way he takes a word and turns it around like a diamond under a light to see all the angles.

And thank you for your kind words.

If you don't mind, I was thinking of sending ya'll another card. With everything going on in your corner of the country I thought you could use something nice in the mailbox. Postcards always cheer me.

mudpuddle said...

sure if you want; i'll send one back if it has your new address on it...

Sharon Wilfong said...

will do.

Cleo said...

Well, I'm glad to hear that you like James. I've been very leery about approaching his work but with your endorsement I will .... eventually. Probably one of this shorter works would be better to start with. Thanks for the review!

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Cleo!

It seems you really like James, like me, or you cannot stand him, like a lot of other people. I'll be interested to see what camp you're in and why.

I really like his short works. Try The Beast in the Jungle. That one really made an impact on me in my twenties. I last read it a few years ago and my impression was different. Sometimes it all depends on where we are in life.

R.T. said...

Thank for your superb catalyst .... I will return to James in short order .... I’ve just gotten beyond Hurricane Sally cleanup and repair, and beyond persistent but continuing problems with Blogger, so I’m back on the air .... RT / Tim

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi there, R.T.

We must have commented on each other's blogs at the same time. I hope you were not hit too hard by Sally. So far my parents have been fortunate and so have we.

Glad to see you back up and running.

Debbie Nolan said...

Sharon first congratulations on your beautiful painting and the opening of your Etsy shop. I have been toying with setting up a store as well. Perhaps with the coming of the new year and winter months I will get started. Love that Puddle - he is absolutely adorable. I am at the library today and will take a look to see if they have a copy of this book on their shelf. Sounds like a good read. Well take care and have a blessed weekend. Hugs!

Marian H said...

Puddle is such a cutie!!

I'm embarrassed to say I've never read Henry James. But knowing he is one of your favorite authors bumps him up on the list. :)

I will check out your Etsy shop!

Sharon Wilfong said...

HI Debbie,

I'm sure your art would be very successful on Etsy. We'll see if mine is. I'm thinking of turning some of them into postcards and notebook cards and see if that might get more sales.

If you read James, I hope you enjoy him.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Marion.

I first read James in my twenties. I had a friend who liked him, so we used to buy each other his books as well as other classic authors. If you read him, I'd be interested in your review.

ashok said...

'Birds flying..' Is an awesome painting!

Sharon Wilfong said...

Thank you Ashok. Coming from you I consider that a tremendous compliment.

James said...

I'm a fan of Henry James and this is one of his novels that was among the first that I read. My introduction to both it and James was a production of the play "The Heiress" a play by Augustus and Ruth Goetz that they based on Washington Square.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi James!

Nice to meet a fellow fan of James. We seem to be in the minority. I have not heard of Goetz's play, but I'd be interested in watching it.