Henry James is good for your attention span

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Winner GLBT Category

The Fall has been here,

for a few weeks,


my favourite season,


I have spent a good part of it,

locked up,

in the apartment,

sick as a dog.

All kinds of competing symptoms,

cough, sneezing,



all of it,

making me into a mental case.

Can’t work, can’t concentrate,

worried about money,

all those fun things.

In between the coughing,


my head throbbing,

I have managed to finish,

the Henry James novel,

The American,


only took me three months,

I’ve been perfecting the slow reading thing:-)

I seem to be afflicted,

with the attention span of a gnat,

of late,

I can manage the small face book post,

or look at the picture blogs,


any kind of content or development,

has trouble keeping my attention,

I need to step away,

a little from the black hole that is,

the online world.

It’s hard to step away from,

a lot of my contact is there,


email, texting and chat on face book,

when was the last time,

you had a real live conversation,

that didn’t involve,



or ordering cigarettes at the corner store.

But, I digress.

Henry James.

For most of my adult life,

I have shied away,

from Henry James and Thomas Hardy and Herman Melville,


convinced that,

although they were most assuredly,

‘great’ writers,

they weren’t for me,

too slow,

too descriptive

not enough of a story,

or too many stories.

Prejudices left over from,

my twenties.

Last year,

I discovered that,

Thomas Hardy’s Jude The Obscure,

was a complex fascinating read,

about how hard it was,

to be different,


how society,

through the church and conventional morality,

ruins the lives of smart promising people,

A hard and indignant novel.

It bummed me out,


it also stimulated me,

and brought up,

all kinds of avenues of conversation,



a great novel,

not for the sentimental,

or faint of heart,


not for the easily dissuaded,


The James novel,

isn’t like that,

nowhere near as dark,

a lighter tone,


a lighter subject,

or is it?

This book,

is about the clash between,

the old world and the new world,

it is about duty vs happiness,

it is about family,


it’s not always pretty aspect,

it is about knowing,

who you are.

I loved this novel,

it took forever to read,


I believe,

that is how it was meant,

to be read,


letting the plot develop,

on the page,

in your mind,

at a strolling in the park,


I heard and read of James,

that he understood,

the psychology of women,

very well,

and even though,

these are 19 Th century women,

I agree,

James does understand the psychology of women,

the societal pressures,

the limitations,

the what is expected,

what is,



so much more.

I don’t like to give away,

plot lines,

as you all know,


I don’t truly write reviews,

more impressions and pastiches.

This novel,

has many plot twists,


you wonder at times,

where they are leading,

what is the point?

by the end you realize,



not particularly,


nor satisfying,

the end,

ties together this slice of life novel,


Very life like novel,

in the,

‘things don’t always work out as we would hope’,


James is a master weaver,

a slow cooked plot,

that leaves you,


As this is one of his lesser novels,

I can only say,

I look forward to reading the greater ones


I have the Wings Of The Dove,

in an old Modern Library edition,

my preferred format,

not too big,

not too small.

I imagine,

it will take me well into 2015,


that’s ok.

Any of you,

have any thoughts or experience,

with James?

I’d love to hear what you think.

Be well.

Later girls,



Author: Bookish Butch

I am a bookish butch in my mid early fifties. I live in Montréal and always have. I used to run a small used bookstore. Reading keeps me sane. My latest jiggie is photography, book project in the works, living the dream

5 thoughts on “Henry James is good for your attention span”

  1. First – so nice to see your header photo back. I like it!

    I LOVED both James & Hardy when I was in high school and college. I’ve never been able to appreciate Melville (to be fair, I’ve only read Moby Dick – but I did read it 3x, most recently about 3 years ago). I agree that Henry James wrote well about women – he’s a man I’d have liked to know.

    I’m sorry you’re struggling with such a multi-symptomatic respiratory ailment — and I’m impressed that you’ve been able to read while ill. Head congestion usually brings my brain to a grinding halt. Also, I too have noticed my own abbreviated attention span. It brings me great distress. Currently I cannot imagine picking up H James again, or, as we discussed earlier in the week, Marilynne Robinson – too slow, too cerebral, too daunting. 🙂

  2. Thanks Dee, you are so sweet:-)
    I think since you have always liked James and Hardy you could manage as I have, a very slow read. I have never made it through Moby Dick, ever, I may try Barthleby The Scrivener, again, nice and short.
    My symptoms have improved, I actually made it to work last night, and, I managed very little reading during my affliction but, I got through the last fifty pages of The American and I am very glad I did.
    I now have The Wings Of The Dove sitting on my night table, we’ll see how that goes.
    You know, I believe you are more bookish than I, just a thought:-)

  3. No. I don’t think I’m more bookish than you. I listen to a lot of mysteries while I work, but for actual reading of books, I don’t have much opportunity any more. I read a lot of newspapers and magazines (well, the New Yorker). And I generally am reading one or two non-fiction books concurrently with whatever fiction has my attention – so it can take me a LONG time to make it through a novel these days.

    As I re-read my reading self-description, I’ll concede that’s fairly bookish – but you are more literary than I!

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