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Wings of the Dove
by Henry James

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The Wings of the Dove is a classic example of Henry James's morality tales that play off the naiveté of an American protagonist abroad. In early-20th-century London, Kate Croy and Merton Densher are engaged in a passionate, clandestine love affair. Croy is desperately in love with Densher, who has all the qualities of a potentially excellent husband: he's handsome, witty, and idealistic--the one thing he lacks is money, which ultimately renders him unsuitable as a mate. By chance, Croy befriends a young American heiress, Milly Theale. When Croy discovers that Theale suffers from a mysterious and fatal malady, she hatches a plan that can give all three characters something that they want--at a price. Croy and Densher plan to accompany the young woman to Venice where Densher, according to Croy's design, will seduce the ailing heiress. The two hope that Theale will find love and happiness in her last days and--when she dies--will leave her fortune to Densher, so that he and Croy can live happily ever after. The scheme that at first develops as planned begins to founder when Theale discovers the pair's true motives shortly before her death. Densher struggles with unanticipated feelings of love for his new paramour, and his guilt may obstruct his ability to avail himself of Theale's gift. James deftly navigates the complexities and irony of such moral treachery in this stirring novel.


Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (1 of 110), Read 60 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, December 30, 2000 11:56 PM I am starting a new note for the official discussion of Wings of the Dove. Warning -- this thread may contain spoilers. This is the place to be if you have finished the book, or you are not concerned about possible plot spoilers. Please note that the first two notes were written by Dick and Katie, although they look like I posted them because I copied them from the other thread. Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (2 of 110), Read 57 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, December 30, 2000 11:57 PM One thing I've come away with from The Wings of the Dove is a deeper appreciation of how important it was for one or more of these people to marry rich. Between all the deep thinking, thoughtful silences, extended and delicately circumscribed conversations and staring out of windows, it is quite clear that none of them have time to hold down a job. Dick, The Literary Genre
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (3 of 110), Read 61 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 12:04 AM Note from Katie: But think, Dick, what were the options for women? Economics would have been a crucial concern in English (or American) society at that time. And if we look at Kate's initial behaviour we find that she wasn't totally motivated by fiscal concerns. She offers to chuck it all in to enjoy a freer more financially unsound lifestyle with her father. Kate also moves in with her sister at one point with the intention to stay there permanently. And don't forget that she allotted half of her two hundred pounds to help out her sister. I've always thought that Kate was simply too pragmatic and possessing of some rather perverse sort of integrity. She wouldn't marry simply for money or Kate wouldn't have gone to all this trouble with Densher; she would have married that rich dimwit following them around. Not to mention that Densher wanted her SANS money. Interestingly, it is she who insists they must acquire the cash first. Also, Kate cared about Millie's feelings AS WELL AS the overflowing pocketbook when she literally gives Densher over to her simply because it would make her happy. Ever practical, Kate figures why not both of them realizing a benefit. And finally, this whole mess would have been ably avoided had she met Densher BEFORE pledging allegiance to Auntie, for Kate is a woman of her word; once given she keeps it. Her greatest fault has nothing to do with honesty (for her manipulations are designed to allow for honest dealings misguided and skirting the issues though that may be) or integrity or even a shallowness of character. Rather, Kate's inadequacy lies in an inability to strike balance between her manipulations in acquiring the man she loves, and economically sound life in which to enjoy the relationship, with her infuriatingly narrow focus when envisioning the future and lack of old fashioned common sense. Kate never disappoints me by what she does, she lets me down because of the things she is unable to do. Millie has those missing qualities and that is what makes her the perfect foil for Kate. Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (4 of 110), Read 52 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 10:52 AM Oh dear, oh dear. Here we go. I have to disagree about Kate Croy. I understand your point, Katie, and can agree in part. Kate, like other characters, is able to delude herself into thinking she's being altruistic. However, I think that ultimately, Kate's motivation is a monetary one, with the side benefit of being able to make her friend happy. I didn't see her ever hesitating over the ethics of what she's doing or asking of Densher. Even when Densher forces her to choose without reading Millie's letter, Kate throws it into the fire knowing, in her heart, that all the money will come to Densher. I would not care to have Kate for a "friend." She's out for Kate Croy, and Kate alone. Okay. Fire away. :-)
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (5 of 110), Read 56 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 11:26 AM Kate's mercenary, Maud's manipulative, Densher is a fool, Susan is silly, and Milly's a passive-aggressive in spades. They deserve each other. Ruth
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (6 of 110), Read 53 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Katie Kleczka (pkleczka@uwm.edu) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 11:39 AM Well, Kay, what can I possibly say to that? I think you're right! But that was the very nature of my thoughts on Kate. What fascinates me about her is the complexity of her character. If James had chosen to portray her as simply a money-hungry, man-eating barracuda, it certainly would have made events and actions easier to digest and understand. However, James chose to make her incredibly, erringly human and so altruism is also apart of each and every one of her decisions. I can't argue that you are wrong about her, you're not. On the other hand, I will refer to that final chapter as a prime example of Kate's dual nature. She wants the money, of that I have no doubt. But that is not the decision ultimately made. Densher makes her choose as a test whether he is to renounce the money or not. Surprisingly, that is not the final decision she makes or the impetus of it anyway. Love is always a part of her calculations. Kate's practical and mercenary, but she has heart. :) Here is the section: "That I do consent?" She gravely shook her head, "No -- for I see. You'll marry me without the money; you won't marry me with it. If I don't consent you don't." "You lose me?" He showed, though naming it frankly, a sort of awe of her high grasp. "Well, you lose nothing else. I make over to you every penny." Prompt was his own clearness, but she had no smile this time to spare. "Precisely -- so that I must choose." "You must choose." Strange it was for him then that she stood in his own rooms doing it, while, with an intensity now beyond any that had ever made his breath come slow, he waited for her act. "There's but one thing that can save you from my choice." "From your choice of my surrender to you?" "Yes" - and she gave a nod at the long envelope on the table - "your surrender of that." "What is it then?" "Your word of honour that you're not in love with her memory." "Oh - her memory!" "Ah" - she made a high gesture - "don't speak of it as if you couldn't be. I could be in your place; and you're one for whom it will do. Her memory's your love. You want no other." He heard her out in stillness, watching her face but not moving. Then he only said: "I'll marry you, mind you, in an hour." "As we were?" "As we were." But she turned to the door, and her headshake was now the end. "We shall never be again as we were!" Of course, this also represents the ultimate stalemate. From her side, it is never clear that money influences her final action and comes between them, and from his, whether his memories of another woman influence his thoughts, erects a wall between them, and leads to her desertion. At any rate, in the end, Kate leaves without ever having made a clear choice about the money. Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (7 of 110), Read 53 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 01:00 PM Hi all, I haven't read these last posts as I am only on page 106. catching up here at CR. Katie, I just wanted to say before I forget, that I adored your post on Dec 26th about being introduced to HJames and then the breathing through his work. I read Lady Chatterleys lover yesterday and found that I was feeling like it was surrender to breathing and taking a ride with him. I also think he really tried to emulate James and make the style more accessible. He may not have accomplished that but he did put a bit more sex in heh heh. Just. Anyway, back to WOTD...
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (8 of 110), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 01:49 PM Candy: The guy who writes the phone directory puts in more sex than James. Meanwhile, I found the ambiguity of the ending extremely interesting given the laborious work up. For a variety of reasons, I am of the opinion that Kate was not only a manipulator, but a master manipulator in these matters. I think she knew when she threw the letter in the fire that her action would not effect the inheritance one way or another and was merely making a dramatic gesture designed to influence Densher the Moron. Note that when the real news came from the lawyers (a breath of fresh air there, eh?) she didn't hesitate to open the letter. And there were so many hints of wheels within wheels -- Lord Mark showing up at the aunt's (explained but not very satisfactorily, I thought), the father's descent on London, just as matters came to a head, Kate's decision to go to her loathsome family for Christmas -- all suggested to me that this enormous group of charlatans, led by Kate, true heir to her father's schemes, were gathering in preparation for seizing the money. Of course, if that's true why doesn't Kate just tell Densher, "Yup, I'll take the money, you take your conscience and the fleshly memories, and we're even, sport!"? Possibly because Kate wanted it all? Densher and the money? And was trying, even as the novel closed, to maneuver him into making that concession -- "We'll never be as we were" meaning, and threatening, among other things, "you'll never be flouncing my petticoats again, pal"? While this book was a painfully slow read in many places, once you were done you were left with an astonishingly clear picture of the people involved, and to a lesser extent, of the events that had transpired. And we are left to determine the exact shape of events through the character of the people who lived them -- I guess that's James for you, eh? Dick, The Literary Genre
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (9 of 110), Read 54 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 02:02 PM Katie, You have made an excellent defense of Kate, but when I think of her the first name that comes to mind is still "Linda Tripp." I would not call Kate "immoral," but the word "amoral" does seem to fit. She never seemed to have any qualms or pricks of conscience about what she was doing. And the woman was ruthless. Friendship was sacrificed on the altar of money, and she was willing to accept a slightly used husband provided he could profit from a first marriage to a dying heiress. Think what she could have accomplished in our own day in the world of business. You are, of course, correct that money alone did not motivate Kate. She wanted to have her cake and eat it too, i.e. marry Densher, but a Densher who came with the money that she needed to make herself feel successful. Jealousy may have been her undoing. Throwing Milly's unopened letter into the fire was a strategic blunder. Densher could only have spent the rest of his life imagining its contents in the most unfavorable light. The letter might have hinted at forgiveness, but Densher could never receive that once Milly's last message was destroyed. So what became of Kate after the end of the book? I think she managed to put all of this behind her quite successfully. After all she had "paid" Densher with her body for his part in the duplicity (yes, Dan, there finally is some sex, but it's all off-stage). My guess is that she convinced herself that it all evened out somehow. My heroine is, of course, Milly, who I think extracted the ultimate revenge by behaving so admirably. Was she passive aggressive, Ruth? Maybe, but she was an extremely proud woman and I like to think she was quite aware of how her generosity would shame its recipient. I can hear her saying to herself, "You asked for it. You got it. Now deal with it."
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (10 of 110), Read 56 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 02:09 PM Dick, I agree with you that Kate never had any doubt that the money was coming to Densher, possibly because Lord Mark had arrived on the scene to report that Milly refused to believe that Densher and Kate were engaged. I see that "refusal" as a subterfuge designed to save Milly's pride. I wondered at the father's reappearance at the end of the book. I kept thinking it would be explained, but, of course, this is James and he likes to leave those loose ends. I like your idea that it hinted that Kate was indeed much more like her father than most readers had yet realized. Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (11 of 110), Read 54 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Katie Kleczka (pkleczka@uwm.edu) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 02:20 PM I've often thought that Millie could be seen as a subtly conniving and manipulative Kate (although this is not how I most often think of her). Her soft, gentle ways hid well a steely backbone (e.g., her dealings with her companion, her independence as a world traveler, etc.) And what Millie wanted, Millie got. Even with her knowledge of what made Densher tick for her, she never "removed" the temptation of money from the equation and in fact ended up leaving it to him despite his ill use of her. Although I value her goodness, for I believe her to be truly virtuous in many ways, I don't buy my knee-jerk propensity to call her naive. Also, I've often thought that the seemingly irrelevant first chapter describing the equally seemingly irrelevant father -- apart from its serving as a means to introduce Kate in great detail -- offers his character as a mirror for hers as we grow to know her in subsequent chapters. I found myself continually referring back to Chapter 1 and thinking how like him she is. Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (12 of 110), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 02:44 PM The focus on money, among all the characters, was both fascinating and abhorrent. Hard to believe it's possible, but I think our modern culture may actually have healthier attitudes about that than did the Victorians. Dick, The Literary Genre
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (13 of 110), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 02:58 PM Does anyone else think Millie was just a tad overdramatic with her secretive illness? It's one thing to not want pity, and not allow much discussion of her illness. It's another to keep the nature of it a secret, and enjoy the drama. I understood her desire to protect Susan, but I didn't buy not talking about it even with her dr. other than to say, "I want to live! I MUST LIVE!" Too much self effacement for me, but then, I'm reading this with a 21st century perspective. Keep in mind all that turning her face to the wall business after she discovers Kate and Densher's duplicity. Was she really that surprised? To the best of my knowledge, Densher hadn't even tried to kiss her, had he? Geez - she didn't have a clue?! I know I'm supposed to like Millie, but I just couldn't buy her melodrama.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (14 of 110), Read 49 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 02:59 PM Ruth- I buy your character assessments, except for Millie. I'd classify her as melodramatic and annoying as hell.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (15 of 110), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 03:59 PM She annoyed me, too, Kay. I just think she manipulated by being passive-agressive. I don't buy for a minute she didn't want anybody to know she was sick. If that were so, she would have shut up about it and gone away quietly. She wanted EVERYBODY to know, and each to know in a way that enabled her to manipulate them in the best manner for her. Notice how carefully she saw that each person in her personal little world knew she was deathly ill, but it was never specified what it was. She wouldn't do that, of course, it might spoil her little drama of being so wonderfully, wonderfully brave. I haven't quite finished the book yet, but Milly will have to do something "prodigious" in order to redeem herself in my eyes. Ruth
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (16 of 110), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 05:17 PM LOL! We're in total agreement on Millie, Ruth. What I'm describing as melodramatic, you're seeing as passive-aggressive. Either way, she drives me up the wall with her manipulations. She may not have realized what she was doing, but the effect was manipulative. Each character has mastered the art of self delusion as a means for justifying his acts. The only one I saw that never quite bought into that self delusion was Densher. He, at least, realized what he was doing, why, and who for. He was so bothered by being run by all those petticoats, yet he never stood up for what was right. I don't think he had any self respect or integrity whatsoever. And yet, he's the one I come closest to liking. That's because he does at least question what he's doing. Are we meant to like these characters? James has lots of cynical comments interspersed in the novel. If I had to guess, I'd say he trusts no one, and can't form any healthy relationships. I'd also say he REALLY doesn't like women. What was his background?
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (17 of 110), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 09:30 PM I think he was gay, Kay, but I disagree about his not liking women. Supposedly the Milly character is based on his young and gifted cousin who died of TB when she was only 24. James was very fond of her. My theory is that Milly had been told in the United States that she had a terminal illness. All of her immediate family had already died and doesn't the book say that she had consulted doctors before she even left on her trip? There is also that scene in Switzerland where she sits on the edge of a precipice and looks down at the wonderful world she will soon have to give up. Susan knows at this point that something is very wrong and is even afraid that she will kill herself. Milly tries to hide her illness because she doesn't want to be defined by it. How much do you think your own reaction to a person would change if you knew she had a fatal illness? The illness would be all I could think of. She wants to remain Milly, not the poor pitiful heiress who has TB or heart failure, or whatever else her illness is. I don't think she wants any details from Sir Luke because she is fully aware of her prognosis already. Of course, ultimately, she cannot hide her illness from anyone, although she is proud enough that she tries not to let anyone see her suffer. I agree that it is frustrating that James never reveals details about exactly what is wrong with her. Dying is an ugly proposition; I suspect James did not want the sordid details to overwhelm the story. Also, as I have already stated, I believe that Milly had her own revenge in the end by giving her so-called friends exactly what they had asked for. Densher at least knew that she was not deceived. Guilt -- the gift that keeps on giving, eh? Is that passive aggressive? Maybe, but I say more power to her. Ann, vindictively in Nebraska
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (18 of 110), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, December 31, 2000 11:11 PM Ann- I understand your pov, and agree Millie didn't want to be defined by her illness. It's just that I think she carried things too far, for whatever reasons. What you're seeing as noble and brave, I'm seeing as overly dramatic. Of course, she was very young, and didn't have the wherewithal to act differently, perhaps. When my father was diagnosed with esophogeal cancer, we were able to face it better by dealing straight forwardly. That honesty and direct approach allowed all of us to say our goodbyes with both laughter and tears. As difficult as it was, it was also one of the richest emotional experiences I've had. It's possible I'm projecting too much of my own experience in WOTD. We are probably supposed to admire Millie. Part of my problem is I found the novel pretentious, and could not like any of the characters very much. I got so frustrated with the language that it colored my view of the book. Funny thing is, I enjoyed Turn of the Screw and Washington Square. The reason I said James didn't like women much is his portrayal of Maud and Kate. He painted them with a much harsher brush than he did Densher. Neither Kate nor Maud nor Kate's sister ever had qualms about what they were working toward, nor the manner in which they did it. Densher, at least, realized what he was doing as wrong. James was kinder to Susan, but then, I also found her a bit much to swallow when it came to her adoration of Millie. How much older was she? At one point, I thought Susan was in love with Millie.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (19 of 110), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, January 01, 2001 09:14 AM I want to amend my statement to, "James didn't like the women in this novel." Other than Millie, he saw them as grasping, manipulative, and out for themselves. I came across the following while reading about James on the web: "James's sexuality has been much discussed; he explained his celibacy by saying that "to be led to the marriage bed is to be dead". Whether he meant that for men only, or marriage in general, I have no idea. He seems to have a cynical view of human nature. Source: http://www.booksunlimited.co.uk/authors/author/0,5917,-92,00.html
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (20 of 110), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, January 01, 2001 10:53 AM Kay: I had the feeling that Susan was in love with Millie, too. I'm once again struck by the elaborateness and high drama of the close friendships between women, here. Seems like all-out courtship to me, in every facet but the physical consummation. Was this just the custom of the times, or did you guys feel there were lesbian undertones/overtones? And what was the popular attitude toward same-sex romances at the time in which James wrote this? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (21 of 110), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, January 01, 2001 11:12 AM Kay, Good points. My view of Milly is probably colored by the movie Wings of the Dove. The actress who played her did an excellent job. She was sweet and good, but also strong. All and all, it was a much more difficult part to play well than that of the conniving Kate. SPOILER ALERT FOR MOVIE*** Not surprisingly, there was a lot more sex in the movie than in the book. The movie also led me to believe that Densher truly fell in love with Milly, whereas that was not true in the book. **** END ALERT******************* You are so right that our views of death and how to die are influenced by our own personal experiences. In my own case, my father died an excruciatingly painful death from lung cancer. He had been smoking since the age of 11. We all knew the score, but he refused to complain about his suffering. I would never be so stoic myself, and I have always admired him for that. Perhaps I have projected some of that admiration onto Milly, who tried as much as possible to suffer in silence. Dale and Kay, I agree with you about Susan. She did seem to be in love with Milly, although I think that James meant it to be in a non-sexual, hero worshipping way. Weren't women in those times permitted to express much more open affection for each other than in our own day, when others would interpret such behavior as homosexual yearnings? I remember our discussion of Angel of Repose when the letters between Susan and her best friend led to the same kind of questions. Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (22 of 110), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Katie Kleczka (pkleczka@uwm.edu) Date: Monday, January 01, 2001 11:22 AM And in regards to female friendship, novels written in the 19th and early 20th century seem to depict strong, intensely close female relationships be that friendship or even sisterly love. I think that we often read more into these descriptions based on the connotations such displays of affection have today. But then again, although I hadn't thought this was so, James could have had a different motive here. It just never occurred to me. Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (23 of 110), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, January 01, 2001 05:16 PM I think Susan's feelings for Millie went further than a deep friendship. In Book 3, she is thinking about Millie, and her hand trembles so much she can hardly write. "....she felt her new friend would have done her an ill turn if their friendship shouldn't develop, and yet that nothing would be left of anything else if it should." I have a lot of dear, close, female friends, but not once has my hand trembled too much for me to write. Nor would I feel that nothing else would be worth a thing should I not have her friendship. A piece of my life would be lost, but should, Heaven forbid, something happen to my husband, my world would totally shatter. Susan goes to and from the library, reading books and magazines to keep track of romantic interests of characters and real people, "But the real thing, all the while, was elsewhere; the real thing had gone back to New York, leaving behind it the two unsolved question, quite distinct, of why it was real, and whether she should ever be so near it again." Doesn't sound platonic to me.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (24 of 110), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, January 01, 2001 05:43 PM I think Susan was a ninny, who was only too ready to be the accolyte of someone who had what she hadn't---money and independence. As for Milly, I think she went to great lengths to make sure that everyone knew she was being brave and trying to conceal her illness. She didn't have to drop hints. She didn't have to drag Kate with her to the doctor. She didn't have to have the doctor visit Silly Susan. But she did all that not because she wanted to conceal her illness but because she wanted everyone to THINK she wanted to conceal her illness. We have a saying in the Italian side of my family. Say you ask for another cup of coffee only to be told there isn't any more. Someone says they'll make a new pot. You say, "Saint Anthony." Which means, "Never mind, don't bother. I'll suffer in silence, poor little me who never even got a full cup of coffee to begin with, never mind about me, I'll get along in spite of how I'm treated." I couldn't help thinking of this every time I heard another of Milly's protestations that she wanted no one to know about her illness. Ruth
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (25 of 110), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, January 01, 2001 09:04 PM Ruth- My sentiments, exactly, on Millie. She drove me NUTS!
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (26 of 110), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, January 01, 2001 10:31 PM Earlier on, Kate mentioned that Kate Croy was much like her father. Isn't it interesting to find the opening image of the novel to be Kate looking at herself in her father's mirror? I'm amazed that of all the words within this book, James kept coming to the same ones over and over: Intensity Prodigious Stillness Impression James is almost poetic in the manner in which he swoops around these words again and again. Also amazing is how James never seems to describe the scenery in any detail. Just a room--but with a window so the character and go outside and look at the shabby streets for a meditative moment. Let's look again at that final enigmatic scene. Leave it to James that after 500 pages of frustration the reader is even more frustrated that there isn't any more text--"Can't end it here, James--you simply cannot." But he does. Blast him. Anyway, re-read: "That I do consent?" She gravely shook her head. "No--for I see. You'll marry me without the money; you won't marry me with it. If I don't consent, you don't." "You lose me?" He showed, though naming it frankly, a sort of awe of her high grasp. "Well, you lose nothing else. I make over to you every penny." Prompt was his own clearness, but she had no smile this time, to spare. "Precisely--so that I must choose." Stop: It's my reading that Kate has chosen the money here but again Denscher ("Denser") is too stupid to realize it. Kate says--"so THAT I must choose." "That" refers to the previous choice delineated--the choice that Denscher will "make over to you every penny." "THAT" is what Kate chooses. Also at the very end: "I'll marry you, mind you, in an hour" "As we were?" "As we were." But she turned to the door, and her headshake was now the end... Stop again: What was "the end?" Her "headshake." What was the "headshake" indicating? That she not going in for the marriage because as her final statement proclaims they "shall never be again" as they were. The "headshake" nullifies the marriage and what happens if Kate doesn't go for the marriage? She gets the dough. There's seems no real ambiguity as to what becomes of Kate in the end--she nails Denscher for his rose-tinted memories and leaves. She's rich now and, evidently, not really all that heartbroken. Dan
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (27 of 110), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, January 01, 2001 11:15 PM Dan, "Prodigious" was the particular word I got tired of reading over and over again. It was almost impossible for James to tell anything in a straight forward way, wasn't it? Still, there wasn't much doubt in my mind that Kate chose the money over Densher, whose obsession for Milly had spoiled him for Kate even if the money hadn't been an issue. How did you all feel about the fact that some crucial scenes never took place in front of the reader at all, for example, Lord Mark's second meeting in Venice with Milly, Densher's meeting with Milly after she had "turned her face to the wall" or even Milly's death scene? Was James cheating the reader? Could he not work up the energy for such emotionally draining encounters or was there a literary purpose behind his decision to omit them? Kay, don't you believe that a woman can have a crush on another woman in a clean, womanly kind of way? :) Susan had no husband or family to diffuse her affections. I thought she was pitiful, but handy to have around in a crunch. Ruth, was James perhaps too heavy handed in making sure that the other characters knew about Milly's illness? I hate to think Milly herself was responsible. Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (28 of 110), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, January 01, 2001 11:37 PM Another word that wore out its welcome with me was the maddening use of the verb "know" as they coyly dipped and cooed their way through matters made excessively obscure by indirection: "Did she know?" "I think you know what she knew." "I knew something, but not what you knew of what she knew. I still don't know." "I know." "So she knew something." "Yes. We all knew something." They must have had that little routine on a hundred times or more. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (29 of 110), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 12:11 AM Yes, Dick, and every time they used it I was tempted to say, "Okay, if you all know so much, would you be kind enough to tell this poor struggling reader just what it is you know?" And that brings me to a point I've been mulling over. Just as James's writing circles and circles and circles around the events, commas almost out of control, parenthetical phrase piled upon parenthetical phrase, cirumlocution wheeling around circumlocution, so do his characters in their conversations circle, and imply and infer and circle again, leaving the most important things unsaid. Interesting. I know James's style tends this way, but this is the heaviest one I've read, and by other accounts I've picked up it is considered by many to be his most dense. So, does James, in his whole exaggerated stylistic approach attempt to emulate the manner in which affairs were handled in this society at this time? Nothing said straight out, everything inferred, implied, hinted at, clouded over? Ruth
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (30 of 110), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 02:11 AM Despite the turgid prose, I was left with profound impressions of the characters in this story, defined mostly -- as Ruth notes -- by who and what they are revealed not to be. I'm reminded of the (probably apocryphal) story of the sculptor who was questioned how he could possibly have carved a beautiful statute of a horse from a raw block of marble. His response was supposedly straightforward: "I just knock off all the parts that don't look like a horse." And the question is, I suppose: why did James use this particular technique? Are his characters so strong, so delineated and realized, that no other narrative technique would serve to create them? I tend to think not -- recalling, for example Flaubert and Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, to name three. But it's an interesting question: is this style a demand of the art or of the artist? Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (31 of 110), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Jim Heath (jheath26@home.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 07:46 AM There is an interesting piece by James Thurber called "The Wings of Henry James" which addresses the subject of style before it begins to wander into issues such as whether Henry James could be adapted into a 50's Western. Thurber calls it a slowly flowering style which doesn't reveal everything until the very last minute. He quotes Owen Wister of Virginian fame who said that James wants to show several levels of reality at once, and the convoluted sentences are his way of doing this. In fairness to Dick's point of view, Thurber also says that anyone who finished The Golden Bowl left Thurber behind somewhere in the middle. The Thurber essay is collected in Lanterns and Lances and has a lot of other interesting things in it, although for some reason Swedenborg was not mentioned.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (32 of 110), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 10:48 AM Jim: I find the image of James' style as a slowly, opening flower an apt one. I do not, however, get the sense that he was creating several levels of realism simultaneously. I've always viewed James and to a certain extent Conrad as authors who wanted the reader to attend to the text very, very carefully--just like reading a very dense poem. Each phrase, each image, is built slowly and precisely so that in the end, if carefully noted, the overall scene can be seen in the mind the reader. To borrow the cliche: Each sentence is a piece of a very intricate mosaic and James keeps the reader's nose pressed to the glass in order for the reader to appreciate how there are schisms and seams and patterns that one could never notice from a distance. After reading the novel, the individual sentences, metaphors, images coalesce and the reader can then step back and look at the whole while still retaining the knowledge of all the pieces and how they fit together to create this image. This is why reading James is so frustrating but finishing him is practically epiphanic. Dan
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (33 of 110), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 10:49 AM Ann- No, I don't think a woman would have a crush on another woman to the point of shaking and pining away. At least I haven't experienced that, and my female friends have been my life's blood at many points in my life. I've cried when having to move away. I've called them. I've written them, and shared heart secrets with them. But I haven't felt that I didn't exist without them the way Susie did. I'm not condemning her for her feelings. I'm just saying they went deeper than close female friendship. Again, I'm basing my interpretation on my own experiences and my own personality. I think I wouldn't have liked these characters any better at the time WOTD was first published. What was the general public reaction to the publication of WOTD? How could I find out?
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (34 of 110), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 11:03 AM I think James was trying to replicate the experience of being inside someone's thoughts while they are interacting with others. For example, when I'm talking, I frequently am aware of all those around me, where I am, what's next on my agenda, and am trying to analyze what's being said. These characters took it a step further by constantly circling for advantage. How do you think James felt about these people? Was WOTD more of an experiment in style than an attempt to tell a story? Perhaps James was trying to imitate the immediacy of thoughts so his readers could step into the minds of his characters. As I said before, I find reading James is similar to reading Toni Morrison. I have to accept I don't understand all that's going on, but that I will by the end of the book. However, my experience with WOTD was not what I'd call "epiphanic." For me, it was an exaggerated case of "Hallelujah! I'm finished! Never again."
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (35 of 110), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@neteze.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 11:16 AM On the basis of the discussion here, I am reminded of the saying, "The style is the man." One assumes the idea is reversible. James occupies this position in our literary pantheon, but I wonder seriously about his influence. Does one learn anything from him but what to avoid in writing ? FRUMIOUS BANDERSNATCH, FRIEND OF OGDRED WEARY
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (36 of 110), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 11:18 AM Kay: I haven't found anything on the contemporary reception of WOTD by readers and critics, but I did come across this intriguing review of a book about James. Seems that he may have been so stuck on guilt and betrayal because he knew them from the inside. *** BORROWED LIVES By BROOKE ALLEN You would think that Henry James, like Virginia Woolf, must by now be one of those people about whom little if anything remains to be written. Not so, however, for in her book ''A Private Life of Henry James: Two Women and His Art,'' Lyndall Gordon has produced a remarkably entertaining and informative study, funny and moving by turns, full of fresh material and provocative assertions. Although she is an enthusiastic Jamesian, Gordon is anything but a hero-worshiper, and she firmly rejects the image of the solitary genius that James created through the ''phantasmagoria,'' as Gordon skeptically calls it, of his autobiographical writings, the self-conscious mythologizing of the prefaces to the New York edition of his work and his selective destruction of personal letters. Gordon is not the first reader to be annoyed by his pretensions; W. H. Auden, for one, complained that in the prefaces, ''there are times when their tone of hushed reverence before the artistic mystery becomes insufferable.'' By and large, though, James succeeded in making posterity swallow a highly edited and polished version of himself. It goes without saying that James was a great writer. He was also petty, predatory, selfish and catty. Like many imaginative artists, he could be ruthless in appropriating the lives and stories of friends and family as raw material for his work. Gordon, who has previously written books on T. S. Eliot and Charlotte Bronte, contends that James carried this propensity further than most, that he had, in fact, a ''terrifying will to possess the souls of certain people he had marked for 'use.' '' Gordon takes as her subject two women who both were very close to James and who each in her own way seized his imagination and molded his fiction, while he, in turn, ''put his stamp on them, and made them 'Jamesian.' ''The first and the more important so far as James's work was concerned was his cousin and contemporary Minny Temple, who died of tuberculosis in 1870 at the age of 24. Unusually independent, beautiful, intelligent, avid for life and experience, Minny embodied what James saw as a modern and peculiarly American femininity, quickened with ''intellectual grace'' and ''moral spontaneity.'' After her death, she would become the prototype for Daisy Miller, Isabel Archer and Milly Theale. Minny and her three sisters had been orphaned as children and raised in a rather distant manner by an aunt and uncle. Minny was easily the most striking of the family and the most rebellious. Always questioning, searching, she possessed Isabel Archer's theoretical side as well as her charm and vitality. ''Do you remember,'' she wrote to a friend, ''my old hobby of the 'remote possibility' of the best thing, being better than a clear certainty of the second best? Well, I believe it more than ever, every day I live. Indeed I don't believe anything else.'' Minny was never to be allowed to put her theories about marriage to the test. At 22, she developed a ''deposit'' in her lung and started on a steady decline. Her life as an invalid was a lonely one, but in her time of trouble Minny, whose letters richly embellish Gordon's text, proved as courageous as her fictional counterpart Isabel Archer. She lavished sympathy on her cousin Harry's (largely imaginary) ailments while making light of her own very real ones. Increasingly helpless, she nurtured her spirits with the fantasy of fulfilling her lifelong ambition to see Europe, where James was now traveling freely, pockets stuffed with introductions to luminaries like Minny's idol George Eliot. Minny was too delicate and diffident to ask her cousin outright to take her to Europe. He constituted, however, her only hope of getting across the Atlantic, and she dropped the most gossamer of hints to this effect in her letters to him. He backed off; so did she. A few months later the hint was dropped again. His reaction was to collapse ''into an invalidism so intractable and absorbing that it must, of necessity, exclude any need but his own.'' James had the power to make Minny's final months happy; he chose not to do so. It was not a very clear-cut moral decision, and it would be a mistake to blame him too much. As Gordon points out, James, outwardly so sociable, was in fact ''extremely private and fiercely ambitious''; he ''had scruples but could be ruthless when privacy or ambition was thwarted.'' Yet James would eventually reveal an awareness that in this case he might, perhaps, have behaved more nobly. Many years later, in ''The Wings of the Dove,'' the dead Milly Theale is mourned by Merton Densher (in some ways, as Gordon argues, James's counterpart), who comes to care for her only after her death and deeply regrets not having married her, knowing, as he now does, that it would in any case not have been for long. Gordon demonstrates that Minny's death actually gave James an odd sense of liberation, even of enlargement. He ''tried to impress on his conscience the fact of loss, but what he actually felt was all gain. . . . In some way her death and his act of writing were linked, as though her vitality had passed to him.'' In the decade that followed her death, James would achieve international fame, thanks in large part to the ''Americana'' heroines Minny inspired. It was the first of his great waves of genius. Gordon posits that the second, culminating in ''The Ambassadors'' and most of his best short stories, was inspired by a second woman friend, the writer Constance Fenimore Woolson. James met her in 1880, in Florence, when both were in their late 30's. The friendship developed rapidly. Florence, Woolson wrote to a friend, had swept her ''pretty well off my feet! Perhaps I ought to add Henry James. He has been perfectly charming to me for the last three weeks.'' James was less forthcoming about the new connection, for Woolson, a quintessential bluestocking, was not someone to cast much reflected glory. When he did mention her to friends, he belittled her. Still, they became very close. ''The want she met in James,'' Gordon writes, ''was not just access to native material; it was intimacy, the lack left by expatriation.'' Woolson was a successful fiction writer with a broad popular audience, but she was also a woman of her time and knew better than to put herself forward when talking shop with the Master. ''Even if a story of mine should have a large 'popular' sale,'' she wrote to him once, ''that could not alter the fact that the utmost best of my work cannot touch the hem of your first or poorest.'' As Gordon observes, Woolson ''knew her man, and guessed (rightly) his hostility to literary ladies who flooded the market he hoped to claim for himself.'' She was an ideal companion, in fact: a writer with refreshingly subversive ideals, yet always gratifyingly submissive. ''I do not come in as a literary woman at all, but as a sort of -- of admiring aunt,'' she wrote, although she was only three years his senior. At the time, James was sorely in need of such buildup, for the 1880's were a period of relative failure. The fertile creative period from ''Daisy Miller'' to ''The Portrait of a Lady'' had ended, and all three major novels of the decade were commercial flops. Woolson, on the other hand, was on something of a roll, and the success she achieved with her serious novels and stories for the better magazines was of a type James can only have envied. The two writers not only discussed their work in detail, they also, as Gordon demonstrates, used and influenced each other in their fiction. Woolson emerges as a clear prototype for Maria Gostrey in ''The Ambassadors'' and for several characters in James's short stories, while she herself produced caustic portraits of her friend in ''The Street of the Hyacinth'' and ''Miss Grief.'' More significant, Gordon proposes, Woolson, who specialized in metaphoric tales about artists, inspired James to appropriate and perfect the very same genre in his own great stories like ''The Lesson of the Master'' and ''The Figure in the Carpet.'' ''Although opposed as man and woman,'' Gordon writes, ''Woolson and James both point to the way marriage blights art.'' James was an unreliable ally; in the end he proved a treacherous one as well. In 1887 he published an essay about his friend. Supposedly an appreciation of her work, it was, Gordon says, ''a calculated betrayal; it carried an armory of stings in its velvet glove.'' In a tone of condescension James presented Woolson as a moderately talented writer flawed by feminine sentimentality and feminine isolation from the larger world of men, and entirely ignored Woolson's radical ideas and her ambiguous attitudes toward love and marriage. It was an influential misreading, aimed directly at Woolson's readership (he published it in Harper's, her own usual forum), and, in the event, it insured her future obliteration. In Venice in 1894 Woolson, after a minor bout with influenza, fell to her death from her bedroom window. Gordon rallies an overwhelming array of evidence (letters implicitly preparing friends for the event, precise instructions for the funeral) to argue that Woolson had planned her suicide carefully. But James, perhaps to exonerate himself for not having sensed her real despair, reacted hysterically, insisting that she must have been overcome by a sudden and uncontrolled ''dementia.'' It was a position that, all evidence to the contrary, he would never abandon. Gordon goes a little too far when she hints that James's coldness might in fact have been responsible for his friend's self-destruction. Woolson had all her life been subject to crippling depressions. She was also a realist through and through, and must always have been conscious of James's personal limitations. But it seems clear from James's behavior that he himself felt guilty. He knew, after all, that he was emotionally inaccessible, a characteristic he transferred to many of his male protagonists. James's relations with both sexes were complex, and Gordon slyly avoids mentioning homosexuality when discussing them. He ''never thought of himself as deviant, for the simple reason that the Edwardians drew a sharper line between sexual activity and tender friendship'' -- a term that might aptly describe his fondness for various attractive young men. His real desire, Gordon states, was actually ''not much to do with gender: sensuality is merely a route to the appropriation of a 'Life.' ''Throughout James's career -- and most particularly in the cases of Minny Temple and Constance Fenimore Woolson -- it was not love or even friendship that he sought, but the very finest of fictional material.” >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (37 of 110), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@neteze.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 11:39 AM DALE Very interesting. Thank you. When we are dead our lives are puzzles, and if the lives were important enough in their time, biographers set out to define the puzzle and then solve it - presumably to, at least, the biographer's satisfaction. THE HENRY JAMES CROSSWORD PUZZLE BOOK. FRUMIOUS BANDERSNATCH, FRIEND OF OGDRED WEARY
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (38 of 110), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 12:21 PM Kay: If you're really serious about pursuing contemporary reaction and have access to the series Twentieth Century Literary Criticism, volumes, 2, 11, 24, 40, 47, and 64 have sections on Henry James. They won't all be WOTD (or even contemporary criticisms), but it might give you some leads. David
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (39 of 110), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 12:32 PM ''Do you remember,'' she wrote to a friend, ''my old hobby of the 'remote possibility' of the best thing, being better than a clear certainty of the second best? Well, I believe it more than ever, every day I live. Indeed I don't believe anything else.'' Does that sentiment strike anyone else as completely juvenile, in the good sense of that word? Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (40 of 110), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 12:48 PM Here's a quote from Book Nine that caught my eye: "0h!" Sir Luke Strett returned, and made no more of it; so that the thing was splendid, Densher fairly thought, as an inscrutability quite inevitable and unconscious. His friend appeared not even to make of it that he supposed it might be for respect to the crisis. He didn't moreover afterwards make much more of anything--after the classic craft, that is, obeying in the main Pasquale's inimitable stroke from the poop, had performed the manoeuvre by which it presented, receding, a back, so to speak, rendered positively graceful by the high black hump of its felze. That second sentence, in particular, is simply an abomination: His friend appeared not even to make of it that he supposed it might be for respect to the crisis. '[B]e for respect to the crisis'? '[S]o to speak?' The man may have been able to write great novels, but his sentences were execrable. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (41 of 110), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 01:18 PM Oh, Dick, if we're going to spend time here posting preposterous sentences from WOTD, we'd better open up an entire new thread---and even that wouldn't be room enough. Okay, reading about the Millie/Minnie relationship is beginning to convince me that perhaps James didn't see her as a passive-agressive manipulator. But to me, he wrote her that way. She really put my back up. Ann, you may be right in saying that he was just trying to make sure the reader knew what Millie's situation was. But as he doesn't seem overly concerned anywhere else that we know what's going on, I'm inclined to think that if Milly comes off as less than the 'wonderful' woman he keeps insisting she is, perhaps he goofed in the writing. I agree with Dan, I think Kate took the money and ran. And complain as I may about HJ's prose, that ending sentence is prodigious! Ruth
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (42 of 110), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 08:08 PM Kay, The following is not from a contemporary review, but it is from a letter Henry's brother William wrote him. William was trying to be complimentary, but he voices some of the same complaints I have seen expressed here. From William James, Fall 1902 "I have read The Wings of the Dove ( for which all thanks! ) but what shall I say of a book constructed on a method which so belies everything that I acknowledge as law? You've reversed every traditional canon of story-telling ( especially the fundamental one of telling the story, which you carefully avoid) and have created a new genre litteraire which I can't help thinking perverse, but in which you nevertheless succeed, for I read with interest to the end ( many pages, and innumerable sentences twice over to see what the dickens they could possibly mean) and all with unflagging curiosity to know what the upshot might become. It's very distingue in its way, there are touches unique and inimitable, but it's a 'rum' way; and the worst of it is that I don't know whether it's fatal and inevitable with you, or deliberate and possible to put off and on..." This letter is from an excerpt quoted in the Norton Critical Edition of WOTD. Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (43 of 110), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 10:16 PM Thanks for posting that tidbit. Makes me feel ever so much less like a dunce than I did before. I mean if his own brother was calling him on the carpet for this stylistic approach, I'm in safe company. I think. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (44 of 110), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Jim Heath (jheath26@home.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 10:18 PM On the subject of influences, the Thurber piece opened with Thurber's claim that Dashiell Hammet once told him Henry James was a big influence on Hammett's work. I suspect that it was James' view of humanity rather than his sentence structure that appealed to Hammett. I can see Kate Croy going after the Maltese Falcon, while Densher says, "I won't play the sap for you, baby." Other influences? How about Edith Wharton? I believe that our patron saint, Dorothy Parker, once said that it was bad luck not to use both Edith Wharton and Henry James in the same sentence. And Graham Greene and John LeCarre and almost anyone who uses an indirect way of bringing your attention to a story.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (45 of 110), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 10:45 PM I rather enjoy indirectness in a novel because it makes me think. I just think WOTD is a mess. Color me a literary rube, if you will, but I don't think WOTD is well written. I enjoyed Washington Square, Turn of the Screw, and Daisy Miller. I may give Portrait of a Lady a try to balance things out, but WOTD shall never pass these eyes again. Dale- Based on the article you posted, I'd say James was working through his own contriving, selfish demons in WOTD. He probably did mean for Millie to be seen as sympathetic, but he seemed more concerned with justifying Kate, Maud, and Densher's actions and reactions. It was their story, not Millie's. Ann- I'm somewhat reassured I'm not completely off base in my assessment of WOTD's style. People seemed to kow tow to James, but his brother at least tried to stand up to the conniving, feigning, pretentious bully James seems to have been. Who was it that asked about the off scene action in WOTD? It bothered me, but I'm wondering if James deliberately left it vague in order to focus on the reactions to Millie's death. He didn't really seem concerned with Millie other than as a motivator for Kate and Crew. David- Thanks for the references. I've printed them out, and will see if our library has them. I LOVE having a reference librarian on tap here at CR. :-)
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (46 of 110), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2001 11:36 PM In all fairness, I should probably quote the last, more positive, sentence in William's letter to Henry: "'In its way' the book is most beautiful--the great thing is the way--I went fizzling about concerning it, and expressing wonder all the while I was reading it." I guess he wanted to stay on good terms with his brother. :) Kay, I was the one who brought up the fact that the reader is never allowed to see certain pivotal scenes. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, James didn't want to show Milly as critically ill. Maybe death was something he himself had trouble facing. Maybe he wanted Milly to remain a "princess" to the readers. However, I still think he owed the reader at least a look at that final meeting between Milly and Densher. For me, what James really excels at is dialog, and this would have been a perfect opportunity to add some very clever talk, as well as actual drama (heaven forbid!), to his story. The meeting was also an integral part of the story because so much of it focused on Densher's guilt and growing obsession with Milly. Could it be he just didn't know how to write the scene? Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (47 of 110), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Katie Kleczka (pkleczka@uwm.edu) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 07:21 AM Two things I thought about when considering why Millie "disappears" from the story. First, she's a catalyst for the action that follows. Her appearance in the story along with her money inspires Kate to begin a sequence of events that will lead to a financial windfall. Once Millie has propagated these events she is no longer all that important to our other vile associates apart from dying, as cold-hearted as that may sound. She disappears because she becomes unimportant; like a catalyst, she sparks an event and then becomes expendable. But to not show the fatal death scene? I found this frustrating, but it is in direct keeping with the secrets contained in the infamous letter. If we knew what transpired in the last days of her life wouldn't we also be privy to the contents of the letter? It's possible that by eliminating the details of her death, James accentuates the mysteries contained in her final letter to Densher. What I wouldn't do to read that letter! PS. If James had written her death scene, y'all would have had to get through a few hundred more pages. HEH! :) PSS. Brother William could be pretty long-winded, convoluted and abstract in his writings on psychology. Getting through Volumes I and II took YEARS!!! :) Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (48 of 110), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 08:12 AM Ann- I think James never got over his own confusion over his cousin's death and his refusal to be involved with her. This book is about the others, not Millie. Even after his cousin's death, he refuses to engage emotionally with her. Hence, he doesn't write the death scene. It's all about him.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (49 of 110), Read 54 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 09:06 AM First off, I don't think we should focus too much on the lack of report of Milly's death, for it seems to me all the most dramatic moments in this novel...Lord Mark's final visit with Milly...the opening of the letter...the details of Milly's illness and suffering...and her death...were all treated with a reversal of literary drama and left to the reader's imagination. Her death was not singled out with this lack of report. It appears this is how James handled the most dramatic moments. But what intrigues me the most is Densher's offer to Kate of the money. At first the ploy is to obtain the money as a means of holding on to Kate, but as he finds himself having become emotionally intertwined with Milly's memory at the end of the novel, the offer of the money seems to me a way (perhaps) for him to finally obtain freedom from Kate. And I think she knew this. And I think it gave her reason to step back and really ponder what she wanted...Densher in emotional captivity, or financial freedom forever. Kate was no fool. The money was a business proposition...so much so that she not only did not experience any jealousy over her lover's involvement with Milly, but encouraged it. With the acceptance of the offer to open the will and obtain the money for herself, she is finally faced with the fact that she might not be able to have both. Beej
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (50 of 110), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 09:43 AM I just finished The Wings of the Dove this morning, in bed, drinking my coffee, then rushed to the computer to read the Spoiler Version notes. Since I didn't know the ending previously, though I might have guessed, I'm glad I waited. I did find myself in a compulsion to reach the end to see just how he would do it. I agree with those here who have said that reading James can be excruciating, puzzling through the sentences, trying to pull out every drop of meaning, but he keeps me fascinated right to the end. Also, I love those sections of dialogue which are suddenly clear enough to strike a bell or at least they give the illusion of it after the descriptive passages. Ann, I think that James views many situations, such as Densher's final visit to Millie, from another point of view, as a matter of technique. In that way, he gives us not only the visit, but Densher's view of it as represented to Kate and Kate's reaction to it as well, all in a few pages. Amazing to think that he might have done it with a view to economy{G}, but actually I think it was with a view to the most enhanced effect. Has anyone else read James' preface to this book? In it, he implies that the primary factor in this story was always Millie, but I get the sense that she's less important as an actual character than she is as an influence...and, then again, maybe the character is the influence. In any case, there is this quote as to the effect on the other characters: ...one would see the persons subject to them drawn in as by some pool of a Lorelei--see them tempted and charmed; bribed away, it may even be, from more prescribed and natural orbits, inheriting from their connexion with her strange difficulties and still stranger opportunities, confronted with rare questions and called upon for new discriminations. When I look at the plot structure in this way, instead of getting seduced by whether or not I like the characters, I understand my fascination. Watching them all struggle in the whirlpool is a pretty fascinating proposition. Barb
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (51 of 110), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 10:08 AM Barb, I started to read the introduction, but the convoluted style was very similar to that of WOTD itself, and I got discouraged. Beej, I am intrigued by your interpretation that Milly gave Densher the money to free him from Kate. If we could only have seen their final meeting or read that letter, we might have had a better idea of her true motivation. Katie, I was totally frustrated by the destruction of that letter. The desire to find out what really happened between Milly and Densher after Lord Mark's ominous second visit was one of the things that kept me reading that book. I was quite surprised (naive Jamesian reader that I am) that the details were never revealed. We know only that they met, that Densher did not deny he was engaged to Kate, and that Milly advised him to leave. The letter, presumably, would have given us some insight into Milly's true feelings about the behavior of her supposed "friends." However, I could see some possible justification for the destruction of the unopened letter from a literary point of view. I think it showed that Kate was jealous of Milly in the end. The fact that it was destroyed unopened also gave the letter much more power. Densher probably tortured himself about its contents for the rest of his life. Reading it would have given him some closure that he was forever to be denied. Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (52 of 110), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 10:18 AM I think we can rest assured that Densher was going to torture himself for the rest of his life over something, letter or no. He was just that kind of guy. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (53 of 110), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 10:25 AM Dick, Densher did appear to be a professional victim, didn't he? Another thing that intrigues me is Aunt Maude's involvement with Lord Mark. I wonder if there was a bit of scheming there for Lord Mark to marry Milly, inherit the bucks and then marry Kate.. he did spend time with Maude prior to telling Milly of Kate and Densher's engagement. Maude, to me the Queen manipulator here, strikes me as having everything work to her advantage and liking, if Milly had married Lord Mark. Beej
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (54 of 110), Read 42 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 10:59 AM Now I was thinking Maude was investigating Lord Mark (and vice-versa) for Kate; after all Maude had the money and could set them up if Lord Mark was otherwise suitable material. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (55 of 110), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 11:13 AM But I also think, possibly, she saw a way to add Milly's money to the pile of goodies..., (If Lord Mark married Milly, he would inherit her money, and in turn it would belong to Kate) and at the same time increase Kate's attraction to him. My line of thought, here, is that because Lord Mark had spent the evening (before his second visit to Milly) with Maude, they had schemed to inform Milly of Densher and Kate's engagement. Also, is it possible she realized what Kate and Densher had planned, and wanted to prevent its success? Beej
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (56 of 110), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 01:17 PM Two questions: First..what was that business with Maude and Lord Mark in the carriage visiting the doctor? Second.. was it ever really told whether Kate opened the envelope at the end of the book? Beej
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (57 of 110), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 04:40 PM Throughout the book, I assumed that Maude was trying to pair Kate and Lord Mark because he had a large income. Then, at the end of the story, we find that he is poor enough that he is forced to leave his house when a renter is available because he can use the money. Earlier somewhere (I can't find it just now), someone denigrates his title, saying that it is really nothing much in the larger scheme of things. That left me wondering why Maude seemed so focused on pairing him with Kate. I suppose a man with a title was better than a journalist, but it still seems to be a lot of effort only to leave the question of money a problem again. Beej, I assumed that Maude and Mark (hey, cute name for a couple, don't you think?) were simply trying to find out all the details. Hadn't Maude received a telegram the night before from Susan telling her of the death? I'm sure that everyone wanted to know where that money was going. As to Kate opening the envelope, she says, "You see, I've not hesitated this time to break your seal." Barb
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (58 of 110), Read 42 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 04:50 PM Poor, poor, destitute Lord Mark, forced to leave his London pad and camp out with his friends, instead of going home to his estate in the country. Depends on what your definition of "without money" is, I guess. Ruth
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (59 of 110), Read 40 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 05:05 PM And it never enters any of their little elitist brains to "get a job!" Barb, You know, I read that part about not having the funds for rent, and it went right over my head that he was B-R-O-K-E !!! (Amazing, huh?) But even though its clear that Maude and Mark are trying to "get the scoop" on things, I still wonder what his intentions were for telling Milly about Kate and Densher's engagement. Obviously, he is trying to prevent Densher from inheriting. But Mark proposed to Milly, himself...and who would inevitably end up with the inheritance? Kate. It just seems as though all the bases were covered a bit too conveniently. Beej
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (60 of 110), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 04:55 PM As I've been pondering this book all day, I keep thinking how brilliantly James played out this age old theme of greed and its effects on a wide variety of people within a social scheme. He plops a young American heiress with more money than any of these people have ever dreamed of down in the middle of this rigid social structure. The heiress has none of the tickets that usually open doors in this structure, no family, no title, but she suddenly rises to the top of the system based only on her money. Of course, she was charming, pretty, giving, etc., but none of this was going to get her anywhere with that group without the money. Then, James pairs this great wealth with her imminent death leaving no heirs and sends its effect through each member of the system. Each of them responds in a slightly different fashion based on their needs. And, I'll be thinking about them for a very long time. I've been remembering a line from a description I read of this book, "...it becomes a powerful study of well-intentioned humans who, with dignity and reason, are at the same time birds of prey." I'm actually not sure how well-intentioned a few of them were, but "birds of prey" paints a pretty accurate picture. Barb
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (61 of 110), Read 42 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 05:18 PM My edition has an introduction by John Bayley who cites Psalm 55: "Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and an horrible dread hath overwhelmed me. and I said Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then I would flee away and be at rest." And, Barb, how apropos is the description of "birds or prey" against the "dove", which is the universal symbol for peace. Also, I see in TWOTD, James once again portrays American women favorably to English women, as he does in THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. My understanding is these two novels were written at opposite ends of his career, yet that comparison did not seem to sway through his life. Beej
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (62 of 110), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Katie Kleczka (pkleczka@uwm.edu) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 05:29 PM Just a couple of quick comments. It's always been my understanding that at the time, getting a job would have been seen as the height of impropriety. Gentleman did not work beyond seeking a seat in politics and perhaps practicing law. Wasn't it simply common for marriages to be built around financial alliances...both in Europe and America? If so, that also sheds new light on the seemingly villainous exploitation of Millie for her money. One could argue that it is just simply the way it's done. Also, I found Maude's character very enigmatic. I was never really sure what her intentions were, what the true nature of the agreement between she and Kate was, and what her thoughts on Kate and Densher's relationship really were. In fact, there were several instances where I felt that she was encouraging Kate to deepen her relationship with Densher and hopeful that she would voice this intention. However, I am reading between James' lines and lord knows what a quagmire that is! Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (63 of 110), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 06:08 PM James uses bird analogies throughout the novel. "Perched" "wings" "dove" "bird" As to Mrs. Lowder and Lord Mark, they seem to have been in some kind of collusion even before the dinner party in Book 4, VII. "...Milly in fact found, of a sudden, her ease - found it all - as she bethought herself that what Mrs. Lowder was really arranging for was a report on her quality and, as perhaps might be said, her value from Lord Mark. She wished him, the wonderful lady, to have no pretext for not knowing what he thought of Miss Theale. Why his judgement so mattered remained to be seen; but it was this divination, in any case, that now determined Milly's rejoinder." So, why did his judgement matter? I don't think Maude knew of Milly's illness at this point. Also, Maude liked Densher. She just didn't like his lack of money.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (64 of 110), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 06:20 PM Another dinner party note: Milly seems to have Lord Mark's number early on: "Milly thought, and it was perhaps the very truth of his claim - its not being negligible - that sharpened her impatience and thereby her wit. "You're blasé, but you're not enlightened. You're familiar with everything, but conscious, really, of nothing. What I mean is that you've no imagination." You go, Girl! I may have to revise my opinion of Milly somewhat. With that kind of straight forwardness and sharpness, she may well have given the $ to Densher to rid him of Kate. On the other hand, she spent a lot of time praising and admiring Kate. Could it be we're not privy to Milly's real thoughts? Is it possible she saw Kate and Maude as tickets to companionship during her last fling? That would move her from the victim side to the player side - a victorious player, at that. Did James leave things vague so we could draw our own conclusions? If so, I may have to revise my opinion of WOTD if he did it deliberately.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (65 of 110), Read 35 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 06:29 PM And I wondered (way back in note 29) if he did it deliberately to reflect the way this society was, nothing done straight out, all done by inference and implication, all machinations under cover and never spoken of. Ruth
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (66 of 110), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 06:57 PM Katie, I was just clowning around about the job business.lol Kay, I agree that Maude liked Densher, but I don't think it was the lack of money that she disapproved of. Didn't she have plenty of money? I think she wanted Kate to marry someone of title. There was something about Mark that enabled Milly to be herself. He was the only person she cried in front of over her illness. she admitted to him she was dying. She knew he would not pity her, that she would not be burdened with comforting him. During his first visit to her in Venice she says: "I think I should like to die here." Lord Mark laughs and it pleases Milly. He continues on to say she should not limit herself solely to Venice for the remainder of her life, and when she considers this he asks: " Do you mean we should kill you in England?" He treated her illness and impending death without "depths of darkness" and she is grateful for this. I think Milly felt very open to Lord Mark. Beej
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (67 of 110), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 06:30 PM Kay, I agreed that Maude liked Densher. That's why she thought that a marriage with Milly would be just the thing. Titles were extremely important in England and America during this period. The American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt married the Duke of Marlborough in what was more or less an arranged marriage. Her mother wanted the title. His family was badly in need of money for their palatial estate of Blenheim, where Winston Churchill, the Duke's cousin, was born. The marriage was not a long term success and ended in divorce. At any rate, I think that Maude would have been happy to supply the money as long as Kate could become Lady Mark. I was not surprised that Lord Mark didn't have money. Why else would he be a potential suiter for Kate or propose to Milly? I may be mistaken, but I don't think it was his big estate they were visiting when he showed Milly the painting. Lord Mark felt he had something of real value to offer these women, and it was the title. Or at least, that's how I interpreted it. Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (68 of 110), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 07:11 PM Ann, That was my take, too. He knew the title of "Lord" was his ace in the hole..and basically was going to capitalize on it in the most profitable way he could..through marriage. Milly had more money than Maude.. Do you think, if Milly had accepted his proposal, he would have married Kate after Milly's death? Beej
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (69 of 110), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 09:29 PM Nope. By then he would have had the money. I think he would have disappeared from Aunt Maud's and Kate's lives. Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (70 of 110), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 09:56 PM Yup, with money, he's gone. Kate wouldn't be upscale enough for a Lord Mark with cash. Simply not the thing, don't you know. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (71 of 110), Read 35 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 03, 2001 10:58 PM Beej- Yes, Lord Mark was the only one Milly opened up to. They had been fairly direct with each other to that point. I wonder, though, if she confided in him because she felt close to him, or because she didn't.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (72 of 110), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 10:58 AM The first time that Lord Mark comes back to Venice to propose to Millie, she said that she could break down in front of him because she didn't really care about how it affected him...because she didn't love him. At least, I'm pretty sure that's what she said. I can't find the exact words just now. Thanks for the reminder, Katie, of how important titles were at that point. I need to constantly remind myself of the differing values between middle class American me and the people being written about here. The other interesting dynamic here is how women survived in novels written around the turn of the 20th century and before. It's a consistent thread through the novels of Austen and Eliot. In some ways, it's even more interesting in the novels of James, Wharton and Forster as the class structure begins to break down a bit. However, women are still on the brink of disaster if they can't find a way to snare a man with money. When I remember this factor, it makes Kate look a lot less coldblooded. Densher has the freedom, in some senses, to have scruples and ponder his philosophical honesty. He can work at a profession that he appears to enjoy. If Maude becomes disenchanted with her, Kate has few other choices. Barb
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (73 of 110), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@neteze.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 11:31 AM "Thinking of Henry James, he (R. P. Blackmur) argued that William Dean Howells and Edith Wharton sank by comparison 'because their moral codes very often prohibited feeling, made whole classes of feeling impossible.' THE PRACTICE OF READING, Denis Donoghue FRUMIOUS BANDERSNATCH, FRIEND OF OGDRED WEARY
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (74 of 110), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 11:44 AM Ah, women kept in line by the whip of economic desperation. Were those the days, or what? Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (75 of 110), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 11:53 AM You do love that incorrigible label, don't you, Dick {G}. Barb
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (76 of 110), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@neteze.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 12:00 PM He's not incorrigible, he's married. FRUMIOUS BANDERSNATCH, FRIEND OF OGDRED WEARY
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (77 of 110), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 12:09 PM Barb, Excellent point. As a woman with no money, Kate could not exercise power directly. She was forced to be manipulative. Let's not forget, however, that she could, at any point, have married the poor, but honest journalist Merton Densher. Still, she was strikingly "handsome" as James repeatedly tells us, full of vitality, and much more clever than the average person. She felt she deserved more, and maybe she was right. BTW, do you think that James sees Kate as almost a masculine force? His repeated use of the word "handsome" as opposed to "beautiful" got me to wondering. Of course, it could very well be that the word handsome was equally applied to both sexes in the author's day. Pres, that was a very interesting quote. Do you think the author implies that James himself was somehow willing to deal with emotion?? Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (78 of 110), Read 35 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 12:24 PM If so, Ann, I have to disagree. James strikes me as a cynical commentator of human nature and social customs more than an author that delves into emotions.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (79 of 110), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Katie Kleczka (pkleczka@uwm.edu) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 12:37 PM James is definitely much more cynical and derogatory in his dealings with European vs. American characters and social customs. It's evident in Wings, Portrait of a Lady, The American, The Bostonians, etc. He never misses an opportunity is seems to paint a prettier picture of an American character or deftly denigrate a European custom. In addition, I am more inclined to think that it is not so much that he "has it in" for women generally as he is not enamored by European women. It's an interesting aspect about his work that some poor thesis writer could spends DECADES looking into, if they haven't already. Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (80 of 110), Read 40 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 12:40 PM At the dinner party, Milly tells Lord Mark early on that they can never be more than acquaintances. She realizes "....that there would be a good deal more of him to come for her, and that the special sign of their intercourse would be to keep herself out of the question. Everything else might come in - only never that; and with such an arrangement they might even go far." As for Kate, Milly wonders why Kate has adopted her. Lord Mark answers that she gains Milly's acquaintance. Milly questions the value of that, and goes on to praise Kate for taking pity on her. However, I'm puzzled by her last statement, "She can care for me - she must feel that - only by being sorry for me and that's why she's lovely; to be already willing to take the trouble to be. It's the height of the disinterested. Does she mean she knows Kate has taken an interest only because she knows Milly is ill and not for Milly's personality? If so, why on earth would she want a "friend" like that to spend her last days with? Was it better than not having anyone or being with people that truly cared?
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (81 of 110), Read 40 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 01:30 PM Kay, that is a puzzler.. I've been pondering over this since you posted it, and all I can think is that pity is the "height of the disinterested" because those who pity haven't the interest to see beyond what is pitiable in another's life. Bur what beauty would Milly find in that? Hmmmm...Unless Milly feels its better than no interest in her at all... Beej
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (82 of 110), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 04:30 PM You can be a good deal more forgiving of Kate's (and her sister's) cold-bloodedness and mercenary disposition if you consider closely how few options beyond scheming and the withholding of sex even a middle-class woman had in 1900. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (83 of 110), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Katie Kleczka (pkleczka@uwm.edu) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 05:13 PM I would imagine that the extent of one's society would be limited. Everyone attends the same dinners and balls and travels to the same geographical locations at the same time every year. Millie must have realized that she would be in Kate's company constantly, and therefore, why not strike up a friendship? Besides, there didn't seem to be many young women of that class available for companionship to either Kate or Millie. And finally, Millie often seemed very unsure of herself. She spoke of her isolation in America (her family had mostly died off and it would be inappropriate for her to have known much of a social life on her own) and she seemed to question ANYONE's regard for her, including Kate's. Okay, one more thing, Millie would not have had the "insider" information that we do about Kate's true feelings and/or regard for her. The reader has this advantage, but try to see what Millie would have seen: a beautiful, outgoing, intelligent, young woman of the British upper classes who has taken the lonely American under the wing (hehe) of friendship. That's what Millie would have seen and so I think it is a result of her insecurities that she questions Kate's affinity for her. Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (84 of 110), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 08:49 PM Katie, so what you are saying is that Kate might not have pitied Milly from this first meeting, but that this was basically Milly's insecurities speaking, correct? Dick, I don't consider Kate to be this cold blooded person. I think she was very self serving, yes, but I don't think she was evil. I think she truly liked Milly. She just liked her bank book more!( wasn't she poor prior to moving in with Aunt Maude?) I really disliked Densher. Not because he attempted to pull this scam over on Milly, but because he was so spineless for the most part. And I question Kate's feelings for him also. Beej
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (85 of 110), Read 40 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 11:40 PM Well, Beej, he did get one night of bliss with Miss Kate out of it, so he wasn't totally spineless. Densher was aware that he had done something wrong. Kate seemed oblivious to the fact. I find that rather scary. Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (86 of 110), Read 42 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Jim Heath (jheath26@home.com) Date: Thursday, January 04, 2001 11:42 PM Katie, Didn't European women come off a little better in The Ambassadors? My memory is that the book was pretty positive about things European.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (87 of 110), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Katie Kleczka (pkleczka@uwm.edu) Date: Friday, January 05, 2001 07:18 AM Beej, Focusing just on Millie, I found her very insecure and I tended to attribute her thoughts on the behaviour of others towards her to be a result of these insecurities. Jim, You know, I think you're right. It starts out proclaiming the vices of Europe, but Strether ends up liking Paris. (However, it always seemed he preferred the more liberal Paris over London, don't you think?) Perhaps I have become jaded by the last few I've read or re-read. I'm going to start reading his shorter works in more depth this year and will be looking at how this theme plays out, if it does at all. It's presence at any rate always surprises me as he lived the last 30 years in England give or take. Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (88 of 110), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, January 05, 2001 01:34 PM Jim: Not that I recall. In The Ambassadors, Strether arrives in that decadent city of Paris to "rescue" Chad before he loses his morality. The quintessential Parisian ('European Woman') is portrayed as a Black Widow whose wile and charms are beguiling Chad away from the his "proper" sphere of work and fiscal responsibility at home. In the end, to avoid spoilers, she's not portrayed entirely sympathetically. Dan
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (89 of 110), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, January 06, 2001 09:00 AM I've been meaning to ask that question actually, if James admired things American so much, why did he live in Europe? I know things like this are never simple but this seems particularly curious. Barb
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (90 of 110), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Saturday, January 06, 2001 12:20 PM Such a big question for me is the aunt. Her utter confidence regarding Kate and who Kate is, was amazing. So little actual detail about her mind. She is ambiguous in a way. Her attitude towards Densher was that he was a fly in the middle of a long ago wound web. He was insignificant. No matter what she knew how Kate would act and live and make decisions. There is another thread here about All The Pretty Horses, I haven't had time to read it but it reminded me of the Dueana, and her knowledge and power. And of course the most famous powerful adult to children was Miss Havisham. Is Aunt Maud a version of Miss Havisham(who may be a version of a long tradition of matriarchal tribes and customs?). Reading WOTD put me in the same claustrophobic feelings as A Death In The Family, a very similar style of telling a story, the characters moving it forward and following their minds and motives.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (91 of 110), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, January 07, 2001 10:08 AM Tom and I watched the Wings of the Dove movie with Helen Bonham Carter last night. Nice surprise...I didn't want to confuse the discussion of the movie with that of the novel so I put my note in the Movies, Films and Videos topic. Barb
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (92 of 110), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Sunday, January 07, 2001 03:02 PM HELP! I am a little lost. But first, I took a while to get into this...I loved Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw and Portait. But I had not tread this or seen the movie. Or read the spoilers here...I found I was really getting drawn into the characters. So much so that at the end of book three I was shocked "what Milly KNOWS Densher" I didn't see it coming talk about suspension of disbelief. I am curious about a few things. Does James have Milly cast as life and death, our mortality. It seems he really wants to explore the effect of the terminally ill on others. It seems there may be something special about this condition in his eyes, she is a princess but not just because of her money. This is like a fairy tale too in that there seems to be a princess and two monsters(ok three? Densher? Maud? Kate?). Young and terminally ill, this was reminding me of something and I was wondering what is the contemporary draw that this story has to warrant Miramax making a movie version. And then I went! Ah young and terminally ill: AIDS!!!! I was a nanny for a few years and one assignment I had, was with a family they were young, my age and he was dying of cancer. I swear he was a special presence to me. One of my best friends died 9 years ago this month of aids, and the last couple of years there was a kind of energy knowing he was terminally ill. Am I being crazy here, sorry ? But my main question is I am confused, Is Milly an American? I see Susan is from England. One other thing that struck me as I am struggling to understand James goal here is Susan thinks of when she was 'shunted' by Maud(another surprise for me they knew each other! the style of writing is dso dense this seem,s to hypnotise me into a place where these things caught me off guard)...she thinks..."the English life-have with accretions, promotions, expansions, ever so much more." I found this to be a very zen and contemporary way of looking at culture. It could have been right out of 'FightClub' script!
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (93 of 110), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, January 07, 2001 03:19 PM Candy, You aren't the only one who wrestled with this one. :) Milly is an American heiress and Susan is also American. Reportedly, in this book James was still exploring the death of his own cousin who died of TB at the age of 24. She was very clever and full of life, and apparently her death made a big impact on him. James never really deals with Milly's actual death in the book. I'm not sure myself what the overall theme is, but if I had to express it in one word it would be "betrayal." Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (94 of 110), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, January 07, 2001 04:41 PM This is a first-rate discussion. I'm certain I'm going to nominate James' The Ambassadors for next year. James' novels seem to actually improve with each reading. Whoever picked this one, thank you very, very much. I'm not afraid to admit I thoroughly enjoyed this "chick book." Dan
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (95 of 110), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, January 07, 2001 10:51 PM Dan- Exactly what makes this a "chick book?" The betrayal, the cynicism, the conniving, or the all around deplorable ethics? Sorry - couldn't resist. :-)
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (96 of 110), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, January 08, 2001 02:11 AM Ah, I see inspired by a person he knew who died. This is taking a twist on Daisy Miller where no one not even Daisy knew she was going to die. In that story it was almost like a guilt ending but the people were not to be thinking of mortality in their dealings with each other. It's like he is giving his characters a chance to think about their actions and games in the face of death-yet what!? they just want to take advantage. I'm now just reading to find out What Happens! Is anybody nice? Am I fool to listen to Lord Mark and his pleasure with Milly-is she going to turn into a witch too? I hope not, then I might as well just read Jim Thompson, and he's a quicker read!(oh right I've read all his stuff!).
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (97 of 110), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Monday, January 08, 2001 04:49 AM Oh good, Dan, I nominated it and was feeling a bit guilty when everyone was complaining. Had to keep remembering how much I complained about Portrait and how fascinated I was with it subsequently. I would certainly vote for Ambassadors. Candy, I think one of the themes of this book is greed and its effects on each individual personality. I'm not going to say anything else about the various personalities to you until you're done because I don't think there are any absolutes with James. But, I will say that most people are very glad they plowed through him in the end. Barb
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (98 of 110), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, January 08, 2001 08:47 AM Dan, Is The Ambassadors from James' earlier or later period? Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (99 of 110), Read 25 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, January 08, 2001 11:03 AM Ann: The Ambassadors was written just before Wings of the Dove and pretty much covers similar ground. The text is just as tortuous, but I have fond memories of the reading experience and I'm sure that that novel would generate just as much commentary. Kay: I was only kidding. I believe just on CR alone we had a balance of males and females reading this one. Dan
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (100 of 110), Read 19 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Lynn Isvik (washualum@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, January 08, 2001 01:23 PM I've been working my way through "Wings" and following your comments quietly, but there's one thing that still puzzles me that I don't think I've seen addressed here. Why was Aunt Maud interested in "having" Kate in the first place? It seems clear that most people in this book, especially in Aunt Maud's circle, do things for what they gain in return. So what did Maud gain from sponsoring her niece? Was it that she didn't have any children of her own to launch into society, so she was missing the chance to capitalize on the importance of her position? Lynn
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (101 of 110), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, January 08, 2001 01:39 PM Lynn, Excellent question. My own theory is that she wanted a title in the family. She yearned for Kate to make a brilliant match because she was living through her vicariously. I can't imagine Maude, even at her best, being described as glowingly "handsome" and full of life. She wanted to "own" Kate, hence her rule that Kate had to break off all contact with her father. By owning her and manipulating her future, she would share in the reflected glory. Kate was a substitute child, for the one she never had. To a certain extent, I think we all try to live through our children. It doesn't work, of course, but the natural inclination is usually there. Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (102 of 110), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, January 08, 2001 01:44 PM Dan- I knew you were kidding. I was just kidding back. It was just too good an opportunity not to jump on that. Honest. :-) Candy- To paraphrase Dale at the beginning of this thread, "I wouldn't want to be around any of these people if they had a sharp instrument handy." Barb- Actually, I'm glad you nominated WOTD. As much as I complained, I'm glad to be able to say, "I've read and discussed that." Actually, the discussion on James' biography and style has helped me understand the novel better. This just isn't one I'd care to re-read. That's all. I enjoy his other works.
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (103 of 110), Read 21 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Monday, January 08, 2001 07:37 PM Really, I was overdoing the "poor me" bit, Kay. I'm so glad to have had this group to discuss it with that it wouldn't matter anyway. I know what you mean about being glad that you've read and discussed it. There was so many references to the classics in other works; I'm always delighted when I "get it." Barb
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (104 of 110), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Monday, January 08, 2001 08:33 PM I haven't been in CR for a few days and had lots and lots of posts to catch up on! First of all, Ann, the spine has not a thing to do with a man's one night of bliss, does it? Barb, you make me want to rent the movie. So, in the movie at least, opium was the father's problem... hmmm..... And Barb, I'm glad you nominated this novel. I probably would have eventually read it anyway, and at least this way I have such an erudite group to help me understand! so.. thanks! I agree that Maude wanted to "adopt" Kate and groom her properly as a means to getting a title in the family..didn't she say several times that she had this intention since Kate was small? Beej
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (105 of 110), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, January 08, 2001 10:02 PM I wouldn't have stuck with this novel, if Ann hadn't shamed me into it, and others hadn't encouraged me. I found the experience to be a little like backpacking. Not much fun while you're doing it, but lotsa fun to talk about afterwards. Ruth
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (106 of 110), Read 25 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@neteze.com) Date: Tuesday, January 09, 2001 11:02 AM RUTH Enjoyed and appreciated your evaluation. Succinct and clear and, clearly, from the heart (or back). FRUMIOUS BANDERSNATCH, FRIEND OF OGDRED WEARY
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (107 of 110), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, January 09, 2001 04:21 PM Gee Ruth, I didn't know I had that much power. :) I think next month's selection, Lawrence Durrell's JUSTINE, will be much more to your liking. I'm sure everyone will appreciate the fact that it is only 245 pages long. Ann
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (108 of 110), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, January 09, 2001 04:25 PM It certainly was much more to my liking, when I read it about 20 years ago. I'll take a look around and see if I can find my copy. Ruth
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (109 of 110), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, January 09, 2001 08:49 PM I liked your description too, Ruth. I knew exactly what you meant (-: Barb
Topic: THE WINGS OF THE DOVE (110 of 110), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, January 09, 2001 09:57 PM Not only is it only 245 pages, but they're little pages, too. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (111 of 139), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@pacbell.net) Date: Sunday, January 14, 2001 04:08 PM I have by now read a number of James' books and realize he is convoluted and only after innumerable pages and descriptions gets to the point. Yet I still liked (loved???) some of his books. I was under the impression that I had read the Wings of the Dove as I have seen the book for years on my shelves but now decided I had read Daisy Miller and found it not too difficult. That brings me to the point I want to make. Starting with Ruth's exquisite posting in the famous James style I got to thinking about what the guy (James that is) was up to. Did he just sit around, having nothing better to do than to write elaborate fantasies or was there a system to his (excuse the word) madness. Now that I am almost 1/2 way through while also reading book 2 I had an idea that I want to ask you, the other readers for comments on the following: I think James writes like someone painting a serious of elaborate pictures. After the reader has reviewed and given a lot of thought to one of the picture the idea behind it reveals itself. He is neither explicit nor straight forward by any means. Now for the sake of comparison comes book 2 that I am reading now: Passage to Juneau by Jonathan Raban. Contrary to the title this is rather profound writing and includes many historical and philosophical comments - but it is to the point by golly! The writers makes a clear and precise statement of what he wants the reader to know time after time. He does not paint an elaborate picture from which he expects you to extract the essence. Perhaps after you are finished with this book you will get a few more impressions. Now my comment is not meant to be a value judgments and unquestionably James is the greater writer, but Raban and James differ in how they communicate ideas and experiences. Let's not forget the contemporary idea that writers a hundred or so years ago, especially if they were well fixed financially had all the time in the world to play with ideas- time being no object for either author or the reader. My problem with James is that reading him becomes a chore rather than a pleasure. So, I am not sure if I am able to continue this book to the bitter end. Ernie
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (112 of 139), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Sunday, January 14, 2001 06:12 PM Ernest I always do a double take when I read your insights. Um I am feeling a little HA frustrated by this style in WOTD. I need to ponder this here post of yours some more... I am in the last 150 page stretch...ambulance...
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (113 of 139), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, January 15, 2001 01:25 PM Ernie: I know what you mean--James is a chore until after you are finished. Then you see to have plenty to think about. I agree with you, in large part, that James constructs symbolic and detailed pictures (what is it, a 1000 words equals 1 picture?)that the reader must wrestle with by first envisioning it as James intends and then comprehending its significance. Dan
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (114 of 139), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, January 15, 2001 04:34 PM Unless my memory is already fading, I didn't see 'pictures' in WOTD. At least not if you think of pictures as being images. Seems to me James doesn't decribe the look of things, the scents, the sound, the actions, so much has he tries to describe the character's inner landscapes. Ruth
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (115 of 139), Read 30 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 01:25 AM I have one word for WOTD. PLOT. I'm not usually a demanding reader when it comes to plot, but I sure wish there had been just a little in this book. Still, I like his social insight and commentary, and I like how he makes sure we know he's referencing Dickens. (right in the middle comparring Maud to Mrs Micaber)I sure can see Lawrence re-working HJames. There have been times when it has been fun and very wise reading some of this book, getting a quiet spot to read and just getting into it, but I sure met my reading nemisis in this one. I kept having to put it down or have a nap. I swore I will read the last pages tonight if it kills me.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (116 of 139), Read 30 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 01:58 AM p.s. oh well, it is interesting how this seemingly chick book turns into a guy book. It seems that this is like a big ol warning about how awful women are...I mean, I don't think James is misogynist at all, I think he seems to have always had an incredible understanding of women and compassion for example Daisy Miller. But this book makes me ashamed of my gender. Now I see why in response to Dan calling this a 'chick book' someone responded the way they did listing off vile traits! I think on spoiler version, which I have yet to catch up on-could take all day to read these two threads on WOTD!!! wheres the Norton version...
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (117 of 139), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 10:02 AM So, folks, WHY is this book considered a classic, and is so revered by academics?
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (118 of 139), Read 25 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 11:07 AM I try, Kay: I find this book deserves its place within the canon. James has managed to create a psychological novel of depth. His use of symbols and his control of imagery is astounding. Pick any paragraph, almost at random, and pick it apart. You'll find it's been carefully constructed word for word and the tone and the images and the themes riddle it. It was difficult, frustrating reading--but in the end I feel I had indeed been privy to a work of art. Dan
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (119 of 139), Read 25 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 12:37 PM I'm a fool! Friendship was the plot! I was so out of it during this read! You know Katie made a post ages ago that said sit back, enjoy the ride more or less. Give it lots of time to read and follow.Meanwhile this past week I have been hopping buses and planes and very distracted. I now wish I had rented a cottage for a couple of days and read this. I loved Daisy Miller and as I said earlier I couldn't figure out what he was doing with these characters and these women. I kept thinking, are these blood sucking monsters or what. No, they're women!!! I take back my ashamed feeling of gender I felt last night. These are female friends and god help the man who tries to be a cad or a two timer around strong women friends. I see that the energy of Milly actually filled Kate and these girls came of age during this book. I never expected to cry in this book, but I did when Milly was dead and Kate was so careful and reserved when Densher went to see her. I can't understand why either of these women were attracted to him. I have to give credit to my Miramax copy. The photo on the cover and the blurb really distracted me into thinking this was some kind of mind game, threesome. Which in a way it was, but now I am going to re-read this ina couple of years when I am at a weekend getaway...what came rushing back to me was all the girls comments and admiration for each other. In so many ways this story shows the kind of safety net women can offer each other in their ability to love each other and have such quick yet deep friendships and bond. Somehow, the long way this was written added to my surprise factor at the outcomes of this book. It's very depressing and still holds up as an insight to our relationship to money and each other and what is worthwhile in life. James knows and loves women so much it is humbling. Too bad every guy isn't raised to be open to reading this kind of story. I still feel almost sorry for Densher, he was so in over his head.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (120 of 139), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 12:54 PM Actually, I think the story-line here simply shows what lack of sex can do to you. Nothing wrong with most of these people that a little more horizontal bop wouldn't have helped. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (121 of 139), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 12:55 PM Ok, Dan. I think Faulkner does long, convoluted, and veiled writing better, but you've answered my question. I usually don't mind slow, careful reading, like WOTD requires. I think I simply disagree that WOTD should be considered an example of a well written classic. That's my limitation, and I do respect your views on this novel.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (122 of 139), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 12:57 PM Candy- You see WOTD as an Ode to Female Friendship?! I didn't read it that way at all. I saw it more as a cynical condemnation of human greed and manipulation.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (123 of 139), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 03:26 PM Kay; Exactly--Faulkner is indeed the better convoluted novelist. But he probably cut his teeth on Henry James. "Goddammit, when I write I'm going to send my readers down tortorous corridors of prose for a huge payoff, a bigtime production and not some silly manner-crap." Or something like that, I'm sure. Dan
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (124 of 139), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 03:48 PM I agree, Dan. Ruth
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (125 of 139), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 04:46 PM I certainly don't regret reading this book, but could the reason it is considered a classic simply be because Henry James wrote it? To ask the question another way, would anyone consider this a classic if John Smith had written it? I am usually very attracted to books which delve into psychology and human motivations. For me, this one didn't provide enough insights to balance out the convoluted writing. I was relieved to hear( see?) others state that even when they reread a passage they often didn't understand what James was trying to say. I think this would have been a great book if it had been edited down to half its size. But then it wouldn't have been written a hundred years ago, would it? :) I do, however, have to agree with Barb that these characters are so strong that they will linger in my mind for a long time to come. So, I guess that is WOTD's strength --characterization. Ann
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (126 of 139), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 04:50 PM Not enough insights for me, either, Ann. I'm wondering if it was because he spent so much verbiage on trying to tell us how each character felt, rather than letting us discover it by their actions. Ruth
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (127 of 139), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 04:52 PM Kay, well let me see, this is such an ambiguous ending and complete story that I don't feel it is a one quick answer. I have yet to catch up on the two threads here on this book.I hope I get some time to do so tonight, I need to to just get close to understanding all the nuances in there! But I do think we see enough of the girls to know they are friends. And I was asleep at the wheel I think to not pick up exactly what and when their conspiracy began. First it might be easier for me to say to you that Densher is no hero at the end of the book in my eyes. He is still under the delusion that HE has made a test for Kate. His nerve! The first time I disliked him was when he judges Aunt Mauds decor. I thought he was low life right then. But the real surprise for me was that he KNEW Milly in America and whatever transpired between them was enough for her to travel that far to see him again. No we never hear they have sex, and actually it doesn't matter. He led her to believe he was free and interested in her. Meanwhile hooked up with Kate. He was a schmuck. A real putz. At one point I think we can gather that he may have slept with Milly in America....when she talks to Maud she takes a great treat in telling Maud she met with him three times. I take that as her knowing exactly how much they saw each other because oftheir lovemaking. That lovemaking could include sex or not. The damage or misleading behaviour is accomplished sex or not. He was a royal pig when he coerced Kate into sleeping with him right before he runs off to be with Milly for a couple weeks alone in Venice. Kate never had to worry about compromising his good word because she already knew what his word was worth once she and Milly realize how they had both been fooled by his time with each of them. I am not saying that Kate didn't have some serious stuff to learn, but what do you think happened in that last meeting between her and Densher? She is completely confidant about her friendship with Milly SHE is NOT being tested at the end by his feeble 'read this or not' attempt to out her motives. Milly and Kate sincerely liked and even loved each other and we haer and see that through the middle of the book, over and over. They both know that they have been hurt and two-timed by Densher. I am very curious to seehow the movie handled the various bits of information we are fed and the ambiguity...and the sex. I agree wholeheartedly that this book is about greed. Not just money greed though, sexual greed. As much as there may have been some greed and vulturism from Maud and Mark and Kate, it is over shadowed by the despicable sexual greed of Densher. I think too that each Maud, Kate and Mark, all voiced how they had been able to see via Milly that money can't buy you love or health. This came up in a few conversations throughout the story.I was quite surprised by Maud. He is so utterly impossible to feel pity for, not once did he have a spine about anything or any concept in life. He was always fumbling around using and deceiving just about everybody who crossed his path. Maud knew from the very first that Densher was an interesting sort, but not a good enough sort morally for her niece. She felt her niece needed someone with very strong ethics. I remember dog-earring that part of the early books. It wasn't just money she wanted in her future nephew in law, but great ideas and thoughts and actions. Okay, here I go to play catch up, I may feel differently after I read everyones comments. I have a really hard time with these ambiguous types of books, it takes me ages to figure them out...
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (128 of 139), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 04:56 PM I sure never picked up on any conspiracy between Kate and Milly. Ruth
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (129 of 139), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 05:01 PM Their conspiracy was the best kind, it was love and friendship. I missed it till the last bits too, and then the deliverance of their respect for each other was like sun.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (130 of 139), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 07:10 PM Candy- I did not see any true friendship between Kate and Milly.At least not on Kate's part. A real friend would not force her fiance to marry her "friend," so that she could eventually have Milly's money. She couched her offering of Densher in sweet, caring terms, but her ultimate motivation was avarice. Kate, like others, deluded herself into thinking she was doing a kind thing. I saw Kate as pure greed, with an occasional feeling of comradeship with Milly. Kate used Milly's illness, and used the drama of it for her own means. If Kate truly considered herself Milly's friend, she had a warped view of friendship. A true friend would have stayed close by Milly's side. I think I remember one point where James points out that Kate always stayed emotionally separate from Milly's illness. I can't quote it because WOTD has already been turned in to the used book store. Can you point me to a passage that indicates Milly and Kate were in cahoots about Densher? If anything, I'd say Milly was in love with him, and held off until she thought Kate didn't want him. I don't see a plot against him by Milly and Kate. Densher was just as craven morally as the other characters. But he, at the least, did realize what he was doing was questionable, and did not succeed in deluding himself totally. I liked him for that. I agree he's a weak kneed skunk overall, though. He and Kate deserved each other.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (131 of 139), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 07:14 PM That was exactly the take I had on it, Kay. And it poses an interesting question. Which is worse, someone who does despicable things without realizing they're despicable, or someone like Densher, who knows what he's doing and does it anyway? Ruth
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (132 of 139), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 08:28 PM Ruth, I'd take Densher any day over Kate. Kate could rationalize her behavior any way she wanted, but with friends like her who would ever need an enemy? Ann
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (133 of 139), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 09:12 PM Hey hey hey, don't get your pantyhose in a knot! I didn't say they were nice people! The whole fun of it is a delicious villian like Kate doesn't come along every day in literature! Bad guys still have friends and or allegiances. Little Milly was a princess and we kept hearing this in the book...but she had no children and her self chosen heir was Kate. She could afford to be 'good' and gentle because she already was rich and secure. Milly passes the torch of herself onto Kate I believe by borrowing the sad ol gigolo Densher. His pain is at the end, he realizes that is nothing much more than a toy for these women. All the women in here. What is also remarkable is the role reversal in this story. All the ideas of women being the pawns of strong ruthless men are sent shivering for cover with the grand femme fatale Kate. and the main 'chance' of Kate meeting Milly was because of that tramp(heh heh) Densher wagging his tail all over NYC. Here we have a powerful beauty, ruthless money hungry Kate. And Milly who has everything but long life, what does she want? Sex. Its wonderful. James saw these women as every bit as 'equal' as men in society. He also seemed to really love money and grandeur, I don't see this completely as a stand against high society. I love all his descriptions of the clothes and the pearl necklaces!!!! He is also very sympathetic to Kate at the end. The way she asks if she goes with Densher, will it be as before? And he promises it will be as before...do you really think she WANTS that, a lying cheating scamp for a boyfriend/husband? He was so busted it was hilarious. Of course she walked away from him! I thought he was an idiot for not reading the letter from Milly and running off to her, when he quite likely was afraid it says how Milly used him, but heres the money anyway for you and Kate. He couldn't face the truth of what a gigolo he had been to her/them. And he couldn't face how both women were okay with this very subtle 'arrangement'.Milly knows and James knows that status and wealth and high society come at a cost. Probably of the heart. Hey, I am not saying that Kate and Milly are some kind of angels, but my god they are amazingly intense powerful women and James was so understanding of the potential and reality of women. They were not some oppressed creature to him! Women like these do not need permission from society to be 'equal' when they are so so superior!
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (134 of 139), Read 16 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 10:11 PM Well, I just caught up with all the posts on this one. Over 200 posts! I think the variety of perspectives on these characters(and boy is there variety!) is a credit to James. Barb said on other thread, how with James nothing is clear cut and his ambiguity is brilliant in that he is like a Ro(one of those picture tests, I don't have a clue how to spell it) Rorschack? tests and what you see is what you know about and reflects the reader as much as the writer!...and I think some of the greatest books ever, have this quality...James, Joyce, McCarthy, OConnor where the reader is made active by the style of writing and the references and descriptions. The thoughts and posts on this book were just amazing.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (135 of 139), Read 15 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2001 10:20 PM Excuse me for posting again in a row. Um I am desperate to talk about this crazy book, and am going out to rent the movie...but before I forget there was something at the end about choice. Densher(p.s. Dan I loved your thing-'denser') wanted to make her CHOOSE between him and the money and Kate seems to take extra offense at him making her choose... I think this is because Milly and her never made HIM have to choose...I think there is some kind of feeling she has and a parallel between these acts...
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (136 of 139), Read 11 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 08:16 AM Candy- Your take on WOTD really has me thinking. You're right in that Kate and Milly are not victims. I'll have to think about whether they actively were in league about Densher, though. Densher does realize he's being manipulated by Kate. He talks about how he's being tossed around by all the petticoats. He allows it to happen, though, to please Kate and to inherit all that glorious cash. You're also right about how each reader's personal experiences and perspective lends itself to WOTD, perhaps more so than in another novel. That fits with Dean's? Dan's? (sorry, guys) post that described WOTD as a series of portraits. Their meaning depends on the viewer. Doesn't it bother you at all the way Kate ruthlessly uses Milly's illness? I'm having a hard time getting past that one and seeing it as a strength to be admired in Kate. Is what you're saying that, despicable as the maneuverings for cash are, Kate and Maud are to be admired for their chutzpah? Milly is sharp as a tack, and not the innocent she's written to be? That she and Kate were fully aware, at all times, of Densher's weakness, and that they actively were working toward the same goal? If so, I'll have to toss that one around a little more.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (137 of 139), Read 10 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 12:02 PM Kay, thank you for your response. I tossed and turned thinking about this book last night and really could barely fall asleep! I feel they are close to each other. I play it back like this. First there is Kate and Denshers affair. Maud will not approve of them. So they remain secret, but as far as we see and Kate sees, they are true and going to find a way. Then we meet Milly and she is remembering the man she met in America who she is going to see in England. She even has a 'cover' her pal Susan is looking up an old friend-Maud. Then, the two girls meet and hang out go shopping and partying, and they totally like each other. We have pages of this stuff how one calls the other beautiful magnificent wonderful etc. Once they slowly realize they not only like each other, they share a lover, they don't do what a lot of women would do...like give the guy the works, and dump him. Instead they keep very quiet, they never embarrass each other over it, and then we find out more and more about Milly and her health and we see that these girls sit back. Your right every one here that we don't see Milly and Kate set up a command post and work out there 'evil plan'. Think of it this way, there is an heiress in this novel, but it's not Milly-it's Kate! Milly is a femme fatale is the literal sense! And she is a mother figure(peaceful, loving-the dove). This conspiracy doesn't need mere words. My sister and I are the weirdest flakes in person. If you think I'm a kook and bad speller here, well in person, I say all kinds of words wrong and laugh too much and am just well, so is my sister. And when a few of us get together to play board games, no one wants to be on our team! Even her hubby teams up with one ofthe guys right? And what happens in pictionary or charades is well. ItS CHEMICAL! I move or draw a scratch on the paper and she guesses the clue. And vice versa. Her hubby has figured this out after so many times now...and separates us us ha ha ha. Steve one time talked about Sex In The City ended an episode where the women were glad they had each other. He was oh ok, good show. His gal pal was 'in a puddle'. This MEANS something among women. We are just plan weird with our ability to bond and understand and team up with each other. The significant men in this novel seem to me to embody the cultural stereotype of female behaviour!!!! In fact these two women are so loving and full of life I almost envy them! Would I want them as a friend, late last night I realized yes. but I am not half the woman they are. When Milly is dying she wants sex! When doctors told me I was very sick, I wanted to walk into the arctic!!!! My god, she really IS marvelous!
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (138 of 139), Read 11 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 12:17 PM I have to do this in two posts because I am afraid the 'puter will zap it away here...I lose posts constantly... I was intriqued by Jims comment that Dashiel Hammett was an admirer of James. Wow! I can really see that! He is the grandaddy of film noir! especially with Kate who is ever so DEEP and what ARE her motives and at what time!? I wouldn't want to sit here and say how perfect these women are, that would be less than ambiguous and missing the pleasure in this book. But they are very far from being perfectly evil too! I think Milly would have just given Kate her money in a will if there hadn't been a Densher. But instead of judging him and rejecting him, they in fact LOVE him, both of them do...and they let things 'happen'. Kate does offer him to Milly by 'letting him' go to her, encouraging it, because she wants Milly to have love and fun before she dies, she can not bear to see her suffer and die, she in fact can NOT see her die. At first I thought this awful, but it could also be seen as she is now becoming a princess and can not bear to see suffering, she is too fragile and sensitive!? there is a fantastic double standard here among all our posts. Many of us have said Densher is spineless and a pawn and Kate pushed him around. Um HELLO, he was ALREADY having an affair with Milly. HE made the choice to do so. Instead of judging him, they turn around and accept his choice and his behaviour. NOW WE SEE THEM as evil? I think their acceptance of him was really an act of love. They honoured him by allowing him to have an affair with them both and to have Milly pass the money on to him, so he had something to 'present' to Maud and the womens society. He was marriage material for Kate then. Instead, he resents THEM for allowing him to continue HIS affairs. He is such a pig I can not believe it. Spineless is getting to lower back which is geographically close to a body part he REALLY is. He greatly insults the womens love and privacy when he doesn't open Millys letter. She gave Milly her privacy by throwing the letter in the fire. Densher wanted to KNOW what and WHEN Kate KNEW of the 'conspiracy' between Kate and Milly. This kind of love and friendship doesn't have time nor words nor an agenda. This is just something a man like Densher will NEVER understand. (heh heh, but Steve would!)
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (139 of 139), Read 8 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 12:21 PM p.s. Kay I thought Denshers comments 'tossed around by all the petticoats' was an incredibly sexist thing to say. $%#@&* him.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (138 of 163), Read 19 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 02:05 PM Candy, You certainly have made some thought-provoking comments. I have to disagree with you, however, when you say that Densher was having an affair with Milly. He had met her 3 times in America. I think these were innocent visits, rather than sexual trysts. It was, after all, over a hundred years ago and "nice" women had to be extremely careful of their virtue and their reputation. Also, I think Milly wanted love from Densher, much more than sex. She probably wouldn't have objected to rolling around in the sheets as an expression of love, but the love would have had to come first. Now, if she had been a 21st century woman, all bets would be off. :) Ann
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (139 of 163), Read 21 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 03:27 PM Candy- Your comments are certainly interesting, and have made me rethink WOTD. However, I think we're going to have to agree to disagree about Kate and Milly's relationship. I cannot read any kind of selfless, caring sacrifice or good intentions on Kate's part when she sics Densher on Milly. If there were any, Kate managed to calm any pricks of conscience. The potential for Milly finding out, and her subsequent pain at what she would see as Kate's and Densher's betrayal was never a factor for Kate. I've had fun tossing your theory around, though. :-)
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (140 of 163), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 04:28 PM Oh well, I would never hang anything too serious on what I say. And I have to repeat, the trick with this James especially is the ambiguity. Reading him reveals as much about the reader as the characters. It's not about being right or wrong. These characters aren't about that. They are much more human and complex than right or wrong. I don't need any gold stars on my homework. I agree about the sex, and earlier Ann I had said it's neither here nor there whether they ACTUALLY had sex. Because it was a hundred years ago, Denshers behaviour is as two-timing whether he boffed Milly or not. The woman hauled her self across the ocean, by boat! to see this guy, because he HAD NEVER TOLD HER HE WAS TAKEN. Kate and Milly ARE ambiguous, but Densher is not. He is after all just a man. meow......
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (141 of 163), Read 21 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 04:40 PM And, I really LOVED all the comments made on these two long extensive threads. Honest, I feel like I actually am getting to KNOW every body here just a little better. It's taking me a long time to place ideas and names together, there are a lot of folks here at CR and it can get confusing. I think one could have a lot of fun with literary criticism with this particular novels. For instance you could do a reading say by his brother William and the Adult Child Of Alchoholics!! ha ha of Kate, and how she had her barriers down for reading men because her dad was a drunk...no wonder she accepted the behaviour of Densher. But this would not be THE final reading. It's all a matter of perspective. Believe me Kay and Ann, no one could have possibly whined as much as me as I was reading this book. I found it torture till the last 100 pages, then I felt an epiphany. I was bowled over as I looked back at the VERY carefully crafted conversations among all the characters. I can't explain why my 'reading' of these women is so different than most others here. I just really think these are cool chicks. I feel they were like ants with the strange subtle understanding of another species called 'womens friendship' And if we disagre in anything it's in our 'reading' of Densher. I guess I see him as one of those kind of guys who is so good to women, I mean he as much won over Maud and susan as he did any one else. He's a Tomcat, and they are charming and selfish and going to run all over town. The last two pages, read in this way are quite incredible the way Kate is very very careful. I see it not so much that the women PLANNED this game, but they let time work it's magic, and what happened is that Denshers true colours really began to show. How else could a man act in that situation? I can see a million ways that he could be a good person and a loving person. First he wouldn't have led on Milly.(and thats not ot say I don't think she might have been kind of silly to chase him across the ocean, but can't we all imagine what kind of time they spent together that she would even consider following him? without sex, but with something like sex?)
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (142 of 163), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 04:41 PM And, I really LOVED all the comments made on these two long extensive threads. Honest, I feel like I actually am getting to KNOW every body here just a little better. It's taking me a long time to place ideas and names together, there are a lot of folks here at CR and it can get confusing. I think one could have a lot of fun with literary criticism with this particular novels. For instance you could do a reading say by his brother William and the Adult Child Of Alchoholics!! ha ha of Kate, and how she had her barriers down for reading men because her dad was a drunk...no wonder she accepted the behaviour of Densher. But this would not be THE final reading. It's all a matter fo perspective. Believe me Kay and Ann, no one could have possibly whined as much as me as I was reading this book. I found it torture till the last 100 pages, then I felt an epiphany. I was bowled over as I looked back at the VERY carefully crafted conversations among all the characters. I can't explain why my 'reading' of these women is so different than most others here. I just really think these are cool chicks. I feel they were like ants with the strange subtle understanding of another species called 'womens friendship' And if we disagre in anything it's in our 'reading' of Densher. I guess I see him as one of those kind of guys who is so good to women, I mean he as much won over Maud and susan as he did any one else. He's a Tomcat, and they are charming and selfish and going to run all over town. The last two pages, read in this way are quite incredible the way Kate is very very careful. I see it not so much that the women PLANNED this game, but they let time work it's magic, and what happened is that Denshers true colours really began to show. How else could a man act in that situation? I can see a million ways that he could be a good person and a loving person. First he wouldn't have led on Milly.(and thats not ot say I don't think she might have been kind of silly to chase him across the ocean, but can't we all imagine what kind of time they spent together that she would even consider following him? without sex, but with something like sex?)
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (143 of 163), Read 21 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 09:33 PM Candy, you definitely should see the movie, but be careful. It's obviously written by someone who loved the book, but it's definitely not James. It's 20th century values, morals, etc. I suspect that Henry J. is a bit of a prude. As far as I know, the scenes between Kate and Densher are about as much sex as you get from him. As strange as this may seem, I did like Kate or, at least, I couldn't judge her. At that point in history, with no skills but social awareness, if Kate made one wrong step she was at the bottom of the ladder. She maneuvered her way to survival. I did think that she cared about Millie at some level. And, this solution had the advantage of benefiting them all, if it worked out. In contrast to Kate's pragmatism, Densher's time spent in philosophical agonizing was just irritating to me. James influenced a lot of writing, authors that you might not suspect. From the tiny bit that I know, he seems to be one of the first to write a more psychological novel, more inner directed than outer directed. And, that is one factor that assures his place in literary history. I remember reading that Willa Cather cited him as a major influence, as unlikely as that seems given Cather's spare style, but I think she was referring to that inner directed quality. Barb
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (144 of 163), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2001 10:36 PM Ah. Yes, I would have watched the movie last night but it's out! I liked Kate and I really admired Milly for her zest for life and for her forgiving qualities. But I am not defending them as great humans. I don't think that is the interesting parts here. It is MUCH more realistic(and Dan I mean this in response to the idea of realism, because I don't think this means realism) but she is more powerful and more real and more scary because she did like Milly and her weakness is not because she is evil, or she stabbed her friend. It is because she thought it was okay to be SO pragmatic to work events or use events via people to her benenfit. There are subtle little things in here and that is what is so wonderful about it. I just ran into a second hand store and got The Spoils Of Poynton and What Maisie Knew. The women in WOTD have power and authority and that interests me. It interests me that Densher and Mark were under somekind of ooh what is it the word, like submissive to them. and like DHLawrence there is some kind of kinky mental stuff going on here. Like I said, I think the real heir to the throne is not Milly but she is initiating Kate into her life as she leaves it. Many times reading this I said oh these blood thirsty creatures. And yes they are kate is like a vampire, a toturer and maud is the biggest dominatrix of them all. But inside of this chamber, james has made them strangely human. It is much more interesting that Kate liked Milly than if this is an all out mind game with out the emotions. Bad people still have children and friends and that in James and in literature is what makes them more interesting and more realistic, and again like Shakespeare in R# we can be voyeueristic and watch and say we are not like them BUT then! we are also like them with our feelings of love and loss. I think these levels of 'bad guys' in James and well worked on characters of vampires and friendships is what makes other writers look up to him and LEARN. Okay...I am off to find some literary criticism about Wings of the Dove... Barbara thanks for the heads up about the movie...I will take it with a grain of salt when I can get my hands on it!!!
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (145 of 163), Read 29 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 08:56 AM This novel certainly creates a world that captures our imagination, doesn't it? To me this was a novel of tremendous conflict, both internal and external. And conflict is only resolvable by the growth and change of the characters within a novel. Densher grows and changes internally, as does Milly. Kate, however, appears to be the personification of self-justification..her way of coping with internal conflict is to justify it. As a result, I left this novel with the sense that Densher will grow emotionally through this experience. However, I see no personal growth possible for Kate. She seems to eradicate, through self-justification, any catalyst necessary for emotional growth. As a result, I felt very cold toward this character. Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (146 of 163), Read 18 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 11:57 AM Beej, yes, I know what you mean and how wonderful you have stated that there is conflict. Everybody gets gold stars on this one, and I mean that in a fun way....but we get two gold stars if we acknowledge what we have all been tip toeing around. This novel has intense conflict-intense sexual conflict! If I were to put this into a genre, I would say it is a Haunted House story. James describes the furniture and it is scary(and female). The trouble with talking about art and especially great art is that well, art is scary and nasty and truth revealing. It is not easy to deal with a lot of the classics especially in a public forum ha ha. The sexual conflict exists between the two young women. I like these women because I enjoy exploring the villians of literature. It is so important to understand the perversity in this novel because that will protect us from living in denial of it. When we try to 'clean up' art, we risk being naive and put ourselves in danger. Art is a dirty business. Here are just some notes I made while reading this. I think you could make a huge list of books that were influenced by this book. That also is why it is a classic. It's not just because Henry James wrote it. The feeling of frustration reading this is because it is static, it is claustrophobic and if one doesn't recognize it for what it is-you will try to read it JUST a morality play or a social novel of manners and games. ah but there are games... notes: -Milly and Kate are sisters with no parents -Art History 101, decadence=dead end -Haunted House story -Sartre- No Exit -Jim Thompson -Billy Budd(impossible they knew about each other but they were onto a similar androgynous sexual passion play) -amazons(Milly is describedas a princess, and amazon and a priestess -pearl necklaces -sexual ambiguity -torture:initiation -mother world -Lesbos I was struck by Denshers description of kates sisters house how it was furnished with over sized things all left from their mother.hmm.... I also was thinking of "good girls go to heaven, bad girls go places" and a song by Smashing Pumpkins...the opening line is 'the world is a vampire' and then the chorus is 'despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage' The big mistake is to fall for Millys insipidness. yes she may want to 'live' and she is advised by her doctor to 'live' and so she enjoys the company of a pretty boy, but I think she is torturing Kate. It doesn't matter what goes on with her and Densher if there is actually sex or not, but for Kate to enter the world of Milly(princess, amazon, preistess) she has an initiation rite. She has to pay. Again, Milly can afford to be 'good'.Polite, gentile well mannered and full of grace. The dove is her 'motherly' qualities and in this world the female and the mother is smothering and claustraphobic and all powerful and authoritative. There is a warning here, we see the men as servants and pawns and toys. There is an imbalance, there is death all around. the death scene takes place in the world feminine city(oh Thomas Mann owes a LOT to this book) the houses and domesticity are haunted by a one sided power of women and that nature has been brought in doors. I don't think James is saying 'back to nature' but he is seeing this powerful cycle this death dance between two women... I don't know...I ramble here but I think the lopsided-ness and the world frozen and dead like it is in here is some kind of warning. By the way, a few people on the other thread really were getting close to this in the discussion of Susan and her strange perverse love of Milly... and WHY don't these two women get it on ha ha well there is something about them LOOKING and not touching each other, oh I mean Kate and Milly of course-they have to use Densher as their sexual connection...why there is something ancient and primordial about this too... but I struggle....
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (147 of 163), Read 19 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 12:26 PM I do see some sort of sexual conflict within these pages, however I don't see it as the driving force behind these characters. To me, the biggest conflict, and therefore the biggest motivator, behind Kate is not only the death of her mother but also the alienation of her father. In essence she has lost both parents. I think this loss of him whispers constantly in her mind and forms her priorities. And I wonder if she feels she had better damn well make money of utmost importance since attaining it was the price she paid for losing her father. Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (148 of 163), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 12:39 PM Beej yes, that both Kate and Milly are 'orphans' is so integral to this myth building that James does in here. They are orphans and they become twin sisters. The looking at each other is like looking in mirrors. Dan points out the novels beginning that we see Kate looking in her fathers mirror. This foreshadows the masculine efforts James goes to to describe there women. This is a world where women have power dare I say equality which is too light a location for them! This is a dead lop sided world. Barren. um the significance of his constantly telling us about their clothes(remember Lawrence!) and their pearl necklaces...well pearl necklaces are a euphemism of sperm. Thats why we used to see all the nudies pics in Playboy with women in pearls.(I haven't opened a new copy of Playboy in ten years so I don't know if that is still a popular image, Steve should be able to let us know when he gets around to gracing us with his prescence) Kate and Milly merely dangle the importance of men here. (Uh I don't know this for sure, but I think this book might even be a kind of parody of The Importance Of Being Earnest) I don't know if a 'self-help reading' or a feminist reading of James is going to benenfit us here ultimately. James knew that a world where the sexes don't need each other is a scary one indeed.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (149 of 163), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 12:50 PM Pearls are a euphemism for sperm? You're kidding me! And here all these years I've been draping them around my neck and hanging them from my ear lobes!..Geez...what signals I must have unwittingly been casting off! (This sort of puts an entirely different slant on the saying "casting pearls before swine", doesn't it?! ) Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (150 of 163), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 01:02 PM Heehee, Beej. Next time try kissing a frog. Ruth
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (151 of 163), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 01:03 PM I know a lot of women don't know that. Why do I feel like the kid in the cloak room whispering about the facts of life at the back of the class room. I swear I am not making this pearl necklace thing up.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (152 of 163), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 01:13 PM Hahahahah Ruth...touche! actually I have spent a life time kissing princes who invariably turned into frogs.. (Candy..trust me..I know the facts of life..I have two children...and there was not a pearl in sight at the time of their conceptions. anywhere... and now I'm soo grateful I prefer diamonds.) Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (153 of 163), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 01:32 PM But, to get back to discussion of the book, Candy, I personally just don't see all the sexual innuendo you seem to see. I'm not saying your way of looking at things is any better or any worse than my way of looking at things..I simply see it differently than you do. Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (154 of 163), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 04:53 PM Beej, I apologize if my thinking I was in the back of the class sharing the facts of life was offensive. I did not mean to say that you didn't know the facts of life. I know of course we all do. But that doesn't mean that a pearl necklace isn't a euphemism for a sexual act where a man ejaculates on someones usually a womans chest. This is a term much more popular among 14 year old boys and they don't usually share these allusions with the rest of us. I am not making up this sexual practice or the euphemism. I swear, it's out there. One can see these kinds of terms in jazz and the blues and rock and roll. For example many bands have sexual innuendos for their names. Like: Loving Spoonful, 10 cc, Pearl Jam. Anyway, I am not reading anything into James that he didn't go out of his way to delicately and overtly at times put there. I think it was mentioned in the other thread that 'theres lots of sex' in this book. I think it may have been Katie but I don't remember exactly. James took an old theme of Doppelgangers and twisted it in this book. Both sexually and culturally. Only a few years earlier Dr Jeckeyl and Mr Hyde played with this reoccurring theme of the doppelganger. These kinds of twins often go with cannibalism and communion. Listen I don't KNOW what all this exactly means in this book, but he is working with a sexual conflict and old old stories. He has taken a fairy tales, well two of them and blended them here. This has a lot to do with the power of women and especially the power of mothers. he took Snow White (of 7 dwarves) and combined her with another Snow White of Red Rose. The mirror at beginning reminding us of the witch/queen 'whos the fairest of them all' and of coveting and desire and greed and youth and crones. Plus in Snow White with Red Rose their mother says;whatever one of you has, remember to share it with the other'. These sisters were wizs in the domestic arena too!!!As I said, I don't know what all he is getting at here exactly but it is something to do with an 'utopia' of women, of matriarchial society like 'what if women ruled the world?' and something to do with smothering and mother smother love and immortality and the fountain of youth. It is some kind of critism of domesticity, and a play with the comedy of manners only its a horror of manners. I am not trying to read things into this, I am pulling out actual descriptions in the book and pulling out what has been commented on in all the previous posts on this book. I think James has done an amazing job of refreshing the stories we reinvent and pass on to our kids. I think this is quite a brilliant book.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (155 of 163), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 06:49 PM Oh, Good Lord, Candy! You didn't offend me in the least! and I don't believe you made up that euphemism..I was merely having fun with you... Your ideas on the power of women interest me. Actually, in all of history, despite male domination, it was always ALWAYS the women who had the real power. While the men were off bashing each other with their clubs, it was the women who ran the caves. It is no surprise to me that James, with his great insight into the female mind, realized this power and capitalized on this knowledge to develop his characters. This is the second James novel I have read in the last couple of months and offhand cannot think of one weak woman in either novel. But often his men strike me as very weak.. Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (156 of 163), Read 18 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 07:22 PM Was Susan left anything by Milly? I remember when I finished WOAD that I was a bit surprised that Susan did not receive money. But wasn't there some mention of something being left to her? Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (157 of 163), Read 14 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 08:51 PM I thought she did get something, but I do not have that ear marked. I guess one thing I wonder is what was all this novel FOR...we have all thought of various motives and drives but I can't help feeling he was having something more than a long dinner party of the rich and their games. James could have been playing with a trendy concept of the time of the biological foundations of a moral order. A kind of exercise about 'anatomy is destiny' ??? I think he is examining the differences between the sexes are cultural RATHER THAN biological! And of course this is still in debate today! And an even bigger trend around this time was the utopian socialists who thought civillization and intelligence and reason would eliminate violence and the bodys passions. There was even a feeling among the feminists of the time that women would be the leaders of such a civillized world. hmm.....
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (158 of 163), Read 16 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 08:52 PM and Beej yes I think he does have very powerful women-oh man what about the witch/puppetmaster in Portait? I forgot her name...
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (159 of 163), Read 21 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 08:58 PM Wasn't there a real "thing" going on around the time this novel was written between "mystic" writing, per se..where all ends well and good triumphs over evil, and "realistic" writing where the reader is left less justified but more psychologically challenged? Just trying to reason something out in my mind, here. And wasn't James known for his critiquing of these two writing styles? Or am I way off course... Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (160 of 163), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 09:00 PM Hmmmm witch/puppet master...refresh my memory Candy... Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (161 of 163), Read 17 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 09:19 PM the older woman in Portrait. And yes that is good about the writing and that is what I mean about snow white those were 'happy' fairy tales
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (162 of 163), Read 18 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 09:21 PM Are you referring to Mme. Merle? Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (163 of 163), Read 14 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 09:30 PM Last night the romance author Catherine Maxwell spoke to my library reading group. She lives locally and so we invited her to speak. Candy, this might interest you..she repeatedly brought up James' name in a most scornful manner. Of course romance novels are the epitome of mystic writing(or what you refer to as fairy tales), and to this day the writers of this genre have not forgiven James for his critical accounts of this type of writing. Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (109 of 136), Read 56 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 11:14 AM AH Beej that is very very interesting. I see so this book is not far from being what I wondered yesterday but more a combination:of parody jab at Importance of Being Ernest, and 'happy endings' the characters can be seen in so many different lights, and a jab at utopian socialists, and romance. Wow, James is pretty impressive, this novel amazes me each day I look back on it! Still haven't seen the film interpretation, maybe in a couple days...
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (110 of 136), Read 57 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 11:33 AM Actually, James viewed these myth types of books as nothing more than fluff and was extremely critical of them. Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (111 of 136), Read 59 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 02:51 PM Fascinating commentary. For me, a "pearl necklace" is a necklace which belongs to my mother-in-law, Pearl. Anyway, I asked a friend of mine about Henry James because she took a course where they read two James novels to better understand the novel--and Wings of the Dove was one of them. She said that the professor emphasized James' literary criticism which is embedded within the narrative of his novels. James provides insight into how to read a novel, how to receive insight from a novel, and ways a writer can create and convey the essence of a novel. In other words, James is a writer's writer and not meant for sand and beach (I know, I know--no big surprise). While I think this thread indicates there's more to his work than mere literary pedantry, I can see where many Ivory Tower scholars would have a field day dissecting and discussing how James creates and conveys his art. Often in the novel, there is mention of sculpture, of painting, of reading, of writing--all of which, I'm sure, is ripe ground for further study. Dan
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (112 of 136), Read 59 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 03:51 PM okay okay. no really great thoughts. But I will quit with the innuendos don't worry ha ha. Dan, I am extrememly pleased to see you catch up here because I don't remember you saying too much about the moral character the novel, and that intriqued me. It actually started me thinking in a different way about the 'literalness' of this book. funny you should just now post about the literary criticism within James and this particular book!!! I was running here to post similar ideas! For instance Cormac McCarthy in blood Meridian, helps his readers to know how to read and even term his style of writing and thinking in the middle of Blood Meridian. There are his wild passages and in the middle of it he uses the words "optical democracy". Right there, a puzzle solving clue in the middle of the puzzle! James had this too and somehow, I think if his own style was just a little different, he might have made WOTD a little funnier. Did anyone find anything humourous in this novel. As I think I said earlier, I think the decor could be made kind of funny...I could imagine slightly over sized furniture and lamps ina movie version...
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (113 of 136), Read 54 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 09:24 PM Um I was also thinking there is another critique James could be making. If Kate was an allegorical figure I think she could be his attempt to personify reason, logic, intelligence and scientific thought. Kay this would fit in with some of the ways you were describing her behaviour. James seems to be taking a jab at a lot of things!
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (114 of 136), Read 59 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Steve Warbasse (wk4@qwest.net) Date: Saturday, January 20, 2001 11:45 AM I love this discussion! Struck nearly dumb by it, but I am loving it. Just a quick note to let y'all know that I hang on every new note, pregnant as each one is with some new breath-taking revelation. Who would have thunk that a late novel by Henry James could be such a useful aid for the solitary vice? Steve
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (115 of 136), Read 58 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, January 20, 2001 12:55 PM Barb, I was reading (again) the introduction to my copy..written by John Bayley..and he mentions Minnie Temple..the cousin after whom James often modeled his leading female characters (whom you have mentioned somewhere in this thread)....but also says James' sister, Alice, died not long before the writing of TWOFD..and that James' spent days at her bedside and studied with the closest attention the symptoms of her dying. After her death, in a letter to his brother, he gave an extremely detailed account of her death, and yet as he wrote TWOTD not long after, seems to suppress any mention of an account of Milly's death.. Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (116 of 136), Read 56 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Saturday, January 20, 2001 03:45 PM Steve: Seeing as there are several different solitary vices, I need a hint as to which one you're referring to, here. {G} >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (117 of 136), Read 53 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, January 20, 2001 04:10 PM Beej, That's an interesting observation. One of the articles posted here mentioned that James' cousin Minnie wanted to tour Europe before she died but that he brushed her off. The implication was that he was unemotional and cold. And yet, you write that he spent days with his dying sister. Maybe as he matured he learned to deal with death better? That is something that most of us learn by necessity as we age and suffer losses. Of course, the above has nothing to do with James' failure to provide the reader with any details about Milly's death. A death scene could have been quite dramatic, but it would have been unbearably sad. There would be Milly, deserted by her so-called friends and all alone except for the insipid, but adoring Susan. It would then be hard to think of Kate and Densher as anything but complete villains, thus destroying whatever ambiguity was attached to their actions. I seem to remember some gut-wrenching emotional scenes in PORTRAIT OF A LADY, or am I imagining them? You finished PORTRAIT more recently. Maybe you can refresh my memory. Ann
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (118 of 136), Read 54 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, January 20, 2001 04:30 PM Oh, yes Ann, The death scene of Ralph Touchett was especially described in wrenching detail. Have you noticed James seemed to skim over what could have been his most passionate scenes almost without exception? He seems to have taken the view that "less was more", and I suppose did this knowing our imaginations would supply more of a personal heartfelt reaction than his words could ever accomplish. As I read this account of James studying the process of his sister dying, I almost felt as though it was not so much done out of any passion for his sister's demise but rather as part of a learning experience for James. In fact Blayley actually used the word "studying"...studying her dying symptoms. It sounds so cold hearted, but it seems to me so many really enduring writers have this thirst for human detail, be it Welty watching hand movements of strollers on a beach, or as in this extreme case, a brother observing the details of his sister dying. Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (119 of 136), Read 49 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, January 20, 2001 05:29 PM As someone who writes a little, Beej, let me say that it's entirely possible to be "in" an event, and watching it from a writer's angle at the same time. Especially if it's something that allows for a lot of quiet time, such as sitting by a bedside. Neither experience detracts from the other. Maybe this is what is meant by the bicameral mind? Ruth
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (120 of 136), Read 52 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Saturday, January 20, 2001 07:01 PM Of course! Now why didn't I say that? :-) I guess I did see it in black and white/all or nothing, didn't I? And I've heard artists also see things with a bicameral mind (that's a great word, Ruth!) Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (121 of 136), Read 42 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 08:30 AM I've been rereading James' preface because he specifically addresses this subject of including a dying subject in the story. He seems particularly concerned about how to treat Millie's death. Believe it or not, his essay writing is more difficult to understand than his fiction. (-: However, I think that his main point was that he wanted the theme of the story to be about other's reaction to Millie, her death and the fortune she would leave, not the death itself. I quoted part of this discussion earlier in the thread when he talks about ..."the persons subject to them drawn in as if by a pool of Lorelei...." Here's a bit more of what he says the subject of Millie's illness: It involved, to begin with, the placing in the strongest light a person infirm and ill--a case sure to be difficult and to require much handling; though giving perhaps, with other matters, one of those chances for good taste, possibly even for the play of the very best in the world, that are not only always to be invoked and cultivated, but that are absolutely to be jumped at from the moment they make a sign. Yes then, the case prescribed for its central figure a sick young women, at the whole course of whose disintegration and the whole ordeal of whose consciousness one would have quite honestly to assist. The expression of her state and that of one's intimate relation to it might therefore well need to be discreet and ingenious; a reflexion that fortunately grew and grew, however, in proportion as I focussed my image--roundabout which, as it persisted, I repeat, the interesting possibilities and the attaching wonderments, not to say the insoluble mysteries, thickened apace. I think that's one of the reasons why he chose not to focus on her death scene, but rather on the characters telling about her death scene to each other. The story is really not about Millie's death but about the anticipation and then resolution of it by those around her. Barb
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (122 of 136), Read 47 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 08:47 AM Barb, Do you see Milly as more of a secondary character? I think the real story is about Densher and Kate. Milly has a purpose but I don't think she's a main character..not really. Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (123 of 136), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 08:55 AM Excellent point, Beej. I absolutely agree. The movie makes her far more central and more attractive, but I don't think that's so in the book. Barb
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (124 of 136), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 09:55 AM Barb, I started to read the introduction, but didn't get too far. As you say, the writing in the intro is even more difficult to read than the book. Are you ever tempted to take a red pen to James and completely rewrite his sentences in a more straightforward manner? The problem would be that sometimes it is difficult to even decipher the meaning. I wish I had read the book before seeing the movie. I liked the movie, but it really colored my interpretation of the characters, especially Milly. I know I was much more sympathetic to her than most of the people here, and I think that was because I met her first in the movie, where she was a more vivid and sympathetic character. It's interesting to me that both you and Beej consider her a secondary character. James obviously did something right in this book. These characters still exist vividly in my mind. Ann
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (125 of 136), Read 42 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 09:57 AM Is the movie worth watching? It sounds as if it's not at all in keeping with James' intentions.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (126 of 136), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 10:05 AM Kay, I think that the movie is really good on its own terms. It has a lot more action and suspense than the book and is a rousing good tale. Be forewarned. (-: It is steamy in parts. Ann
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (127 of 136), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 10:06 AM Ann, I just think she was the catalyst James used to bring out the psychological makeup of the other characters. But I don't think it was "her" story. Is it possible for a central character to still be considered a secondary character? Milly was central to the theme of WOTD, but I still consider her a secondary character.. Or am I just quibbling over definitions here? Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (128 of 136), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 10:20 AM I don't think that the story could be told without Millie there, but she is catalyst more than a character, I think. Kay, my opinion is that the movie is definitely worth seeing. I get the sense that the screenwriter loved the book, but just reworked it for film...and it certainly worked for me. Ann, I'm not sure that I could rework his sentences because I don't think he wants the meaning to be that straightforward. I even hesitated to interpret what he was trying to say in his preface! Barb
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (129 of 136), Read 43 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 10:30 AM Ann- "Steamy in parts?" Yeah, sure. That's what I was promised in the book...... :-)
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (130 of 136), Read 42 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 10:37 AM Kay, Well, the book left an awful lot to your imagination. Remember, I saw the movie first, so my imagination was primed. Ann
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (131 of 136), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 11:09 AM Regarding Milly's status in the novel, let's not forget she is the one with the "wings of a dove." Dan
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (132 of 136), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 11:15 AM True, Dan. What peace or protection did she bring to Kate and Densher, though? If she brought them no peace, then what was her purpose for James? An example of some kind?
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (133 of 136), Read 44 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 12:58 PM Dan & All: Maybe it's my religious upbringing, but doesn't the gentleness and frailty of "dove" have a strong sacrificial connotation beyond the peaceful one? I know that images of doves are often paired with Jesus, both in biblical narrative and in paintings. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (134 of 136), Read 42 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 01:03 PM Oh my gosh, Dale! That's incredible insight! And in my Catholic faith the dove is the symbol for the 'Holy Spirit' or 'Holy Ghost'...what great symbolism that evokes for the power of a dead girl's legacy, both monetary and emotional. Beej
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (135 of 136), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 02:29 PM Dale- That interpretation of dove as sacrificial fits better with my interpretation of the story. Except that these people definitely knew what they were doing. And I don't see them with remorse or desire for atonement.
Topic: January Selection: Wings of the Dove (136 of 136), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Candy Minx (candyminx@hotmail.com) Date: Sunday, January 21, 2001 07:31 PM Hi all, wow I am glad you all are still thinking about this too. What a number this book has played with me! ha ha. Hey I have a couple funny quotes here. Remember whn I wa sthinking about Snow White here. I still think he has re-worked the two versions here and I have tow bits to add from Paglia... "Geraldine is one of the great androgynes of art. She has a refined feminine beauty but a masculine spirit. She is like the narcissitic witch-queen in snow White, the wicked step mother of fairy tales who is a projection of the repressed negativity of and toward the real mother. Christabel protests her father s alliance with Geraldine like a child refusing to accept a widowers new wife. The poems lesbianism is paralleled by the family romance of Snow White, in which bloom sees traces of mother-daughter incest. Walt Disneys Snow White which I saw a t three had the same stunning effect on me that Christabel did on Shelly. The witch-queen is a persona lying utterly outside the moral universe of Christianity. It is a pre-Christian form of malevolent mother nature." and (Kay and Ann you might enjoy this) "In James the mother herself is the evil eye. She protects him loaning him her clothing, in the aegis-form of the late style, as a defense against the spectres of the Turn Of The Screw. But she is also the channel of the daemonic, through which man is crushed and humiliated by nature. james union with the mother is an imprisonment that we, oppressed by his style, share. She prevents him from fully entering the world of personae. He is detained by her in a median state,halfway between Romanticism and the social novel., his artisitc goal. So we wait-and wait and wait. Nothing ever happens in James, because ha and we are hostages caught in a crossfire. James repressions and evations are many, varied and exhausteing. Why more people are not seen rushing shrieking from librairies shredding James I cannot say. I used to wonder whether enthusiasim for him was based on identification, since his passive tentative heroes resemble many academics. Perhaps what is intolerable about him is his enshrinement in a soporific criticism. So much must be overlooked to crown him with a laurel. But if James is understood as a Late Romantic, a Decadent in my extended sense, then his sadomashistic perversities take coherant form, integrated with his witty aestheticism and ambiguous sexual persoane." well she says a lot more but I thought the library thing was funny and well she can go on there are pages about this...

 
Henry James
Henry James

 
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