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:: The Golden Bowl - just shoot me

1.5 hours, 1520 words

Thank god thank god thank god. I finally finished The Golden Bowl. Talk about tedious. (It's too bad because I love Washington Square and Portrait of a Lady. There's a literary joke that there are three phases of James' work: James I, James II, and The Old Pretender. I guess I prefer James I.)

The bones of a great story, with Princes and love affairs and young beautiful stepmothers, London and Italy and the English countryside, but would have been better if cut down by half. At least. Fanny Assingham (o the name, the unfortunate name) drove me maaaaaad with her mental gymnastics regarding what her friends are thinking and why (she never bothers to ASK them, just invents it all in her head) and to top it off she never communicates it directly, it's always vague suggestive phrasings. Here's a fine example:

"What we shall see is whether that mere dose of alarm will prove enough."
He considered. "But enough for what?"
"Enough to give her a shaking! To give her, I mean, the right one. It will make her understand one or two things in the world."
"But isn't it a pity," said the Colonel, "that they should happen to be the one or two things that will be the most disagreeable to her?"
"Oh, 'disagreeable' ? They'll have had to be disagreeable to make her sit up and decide to live."
"Decide to live -- ah yes! -- for her child."
"Oh bother her child! Any idiot can do things for her child. To live, you poor dear, for her father. To save him."
"To 'save' him --?"
"To keep her father from her own knowledge. That will be work cut out!"
"An but you know, that's rather jolly!"
"I mean it's rather charming."
"I mean it's rather beautiful. Only I don't see why that very care for him which has carried her to such other lengths, precisely, as affect one as so 'rum,' hasn't also by the same stroke made her notice a little more what has been going on."
"Ah there you are! It's the question that I've all along been asking myself, and it's the question of an idiot."
"An idiot?"
"Well the idiot that I've been...You're excusable since you ask it but now. The answer has all the while been staring me in the face."
"Then what in the world is it?"

What indeed?? As you can tell, half the time her husband is completely at sea as to her meaning because she's so elliptical, and when he does guess he almost always gets it wrong. As he says at one point, after a particularly convoluted passage from Fanny, "I can do with all our friends -- as I see them myself: what I can't do with is the figures you make of them. And when you take to adding your figures up --!" I sympathize with the poor man.

Slogging through this -- which took me two solid weeks -- I felt like a python trying to swallow a particularly and uncomfortably large goat. Having choked it down, I can now get on with the rest of my bulging to-read list.

(...50 days...)



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