"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Notable Quote: On the Novel by Henry James

I’ve been reading Henry James novel, Washington Square, and though I don’t think this is a great work, it does show the absolute skill he had in writing novels.  He truly was “the master.” 

I want to put two of his quotes side by side to show what I think is a central insight into the nature of the novel. 

Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue.
        -Henry James

The only reason for the existence of a novel is that it does attempt to represent life.
        -Henry James

The second quote gets at what the art of the novel is all about.  It is not just a story.  A short story tells a story, but it does not represent life.  A novel reproduces experience, and what is experience?  From James’ first quote, a web of consciousness.  And it doesn’t necessarily correlate with length.  Some novels are just expanded stories, but a truly great novel represents a web of consciousness through story.

1 comment:

  1. So tell US (usual sinners) when you're going to write your first web of consciousness Manny?

    God Bless Peace