Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Aspern Papers

I happened upon an old movie the other day entitled The Lost Moment (1947). I noticed that it was based on The Aspern Papers (1888) by Henry James. I was immediately taken with the film for its mood and atmosphere (though a plot device was introduced of which James had not availed himself). I remembered The Turn of the Screw and what a master of the subtle tale James really was. I undertook to read the Aspern Papers.

And was immediately reminded of what I have never liked about James, his prose. Long winded, circuitous, Latinesque. It was a story of 40,000 words (a novella) that could have been told in half that amount while not losing a thing. I suppose that was the fashion in 1888; a real writer couldn't use ordinary English in a straight forward manner and still call himself a writer.

What a shame, as James had the gift of story. 

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