Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and The Making of an American Masterpiece

Another reason I read is to make best friends who[whom?] I’ll never meet. My latest is Henry James. From what I’ve read, he was entertaining company, kind and a friend to women. And if we were present friends,  there would be a moment that his gayness would become an understood fact between us [imagine the Jamesian internal monologue] and from then on, we would be at ease.

In Gorra’s words, his book is “not a biography as such, and it offers the tale not of a life but of a work.”  The perceptive reviewer [me as such] disagrees; this book describes the creation of Portrait but is also a biography of James and Isabel Archer and a history of literary life in Europe  from 1870 to the end of the century. All these facets are cleverly interwoven; the only facet that didn’t work for me is the tourism sections [see the House where Henry James revised Portrait of A Lady].  But thanks to Michael Gorra, I now understand that Portrait of a Lady is about sex, the desire and the fear. How could I have missed this theme in college? Too subtle for my ideas about sex at the time?

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