Archive | May, 2014

Van has finished reading…The Master by Colm Toibin

30 May

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to corral my thoughts about this book. When I was younger I spent a few weeks walking around with a Henry James under my arm, feeling very proud of myself and the weight of it in my hand. How serious I felt. I even tried to write stories like him. I can’t even remember which one it was but it cured me of a burgeoning obsession. Where other James works had been a joy I found this one impenetrable. Colm Toibin’s The Master fits the former. He not only gives us a flavour of Henry James the man but he does in Jamesian style. He invites to observe the things that shaped this great observer, and in doing so dictates no explicit conclusions but allows us to draw our own. The subtlety of its emotional pitch is superb, and then there are those great cradling sentences. With others they become thready, rambling paths we’re all too keen to quit at the first opportunity (see above); Colm Toibin seems to channel James expertly, weaving a clear route past the many doors that could be offered to deliver us exactly where we should be, ready for the next.
There’s a wonderful knowingness about it too, a glimpse into the mind that viewed those people and places we can conjure for our own mind from his works; those moments too where a critical word from a more ‘serious’ mind sought to turn Henry to a more productive or fruitful path. One can only smile and wonder what William would make of his status today: if he is remembered it is as the brother of the great Henry, rather than the other way around.
Having read this, I feel a little more comfortable calling him Henry, rather than Mr James.


Van didn’t finish reading…the Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst

16 May

Sorry Alan!