Saturday, April 24, 2021

An Existential Question


In attempting to deal with my ever over-flowing book shelves, I resolved to get rid of duplicates--mostly ancient paperbacks from the time when fifty cents was a high-end classic. Henry James's Washington Square and The Europeans, probably from my college days sixty years ago, appeared to be just such a candidate. The rubber band holding it together was a clue.

                                

Nope, can't even donate this one. What idiot reads Henry James these days, and especially in this condition?

Me, that's who. I couldn't let it go without one last perusal. (I actually like some of James's work.) And I really enjoyed The Europeans--in which a slightly predatory baroness with New England connections comes to visit her cousins and takes up residence in a nearby house. The culture clash is wittily presented and I loved the scene on the page below, with the existential question:

"What is life, indeed, without curtains?"

It should be embroidered on a pillow.  (Not t hat I agree--we have curtains only in our guest room and since Josie's coming, we have darkening curtains in The Room so she can nap. But there's something about that phrase that tickles me. Yes, I am easily entertained.)

                   

7 comments:

Anvilcloud said...

I'd have thought that I would have read at least one James, back in my AM Lit course. But when I looked up his top 10, nothing sprang into my mind, which doesn't mean that I have never read him. What did spring to mind was Sister Carrie, but I see that was by Theodore Dreiser whose name is now unfamiliar to me.

Vicki Lane said...

You might have read The Turn of the Screw--it was probably the most taught of James's novel. Shorter and rather creepy ghost story--or were they ghosts?

Barbara R. said...

Singularly garish and void of festoons...yep, that's me. But actually, my 3 windows in my apartment do sport curtains!

Junk Journal Penpals said...

Well! in the Junk Journal World, those pages are gold dust! Open an Etsy shop and put them up for sale - the older and browner, the better Vicki :) I have Henry James on my bookshelf too. I love my books and can't live without them but we are facing a redecoration of one of the bedrooms this coming week and that means distributing a whole bedroom's stuff around the house. None of us are looking forward to it but it has to be done.

JJM said...

I remember with some fondness the Merchant-Ivory film version of The Europeans, with a fairly faithful screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and starring, among others, Lee Remick and Robin Ellis (whom some of us more ancient types might remember as Ross Poldark in the BBC Poldark series). The critics found it a little too faithful (as in: "But nothing happens! Not even a carriage chase scene!") but agreed it was beautifully filmed. Saw it twice when the film came out in 1979, and read the book afterwards. Mostly forgotten, now, but I vividly remember the lush autumn colours through which the characters wandered. And I notice the film is for rent on Amazon Prime. Hmmm ...

Vicki Lane said...

Ooh, I'd love that--Nothing happening beautifully. My husband was watching John Wick last night and was doing a body count which reached 100 before he stopped counting partway through. I've learned to tune out the sound of incessant gunfire, squealing tires, and angry voices..

Thérèse said...

I see what you mean with the curtains...
You just "convinced" me to read "The Europeans", I don't think I ever read it.