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The Ambassadors ❰Epub❯ ❧ The Ambassadors Author Henry James – Graham Greene and EM Forster marvelled at it but FR Leavis considered it to be 'not only not one of his great books but to be a bad one' As for the author he held The Ambassadors as the favorite among Graham Greene and EM Forster marvelled at it but FR Leavis considered it to be 'not only not one of his great books but to be a bad one' As for the author he held The Ambassadors as the favorite among all his novelsSent from Massachusetts by the formidable Mrs Newsome to recall her son Chad from what she assumes to be a corrupt life in Paris Strether finds his intentions subtly and profoundly transformed as he falls under the spell of the city and of his charge He is uick to perceive that Chad has been not so much corrupted as refined and over the course of the hot summer months in Paris he gradually realizes that this discovery and acceptance of Chad's unconventional new lifestyle alter his own ideals and ambitionsOne of Henry James's three final novels all of which have sharply divided modern critics The Ambassadors is the finely drawn portrait of a man's late awakening to the importance of morality that is founded not on the dictates of convention but on its value per se.

10 thoughts on “The Ambassadors

  1. Fionnuala Fionnuala says:

    Reading The Ambassadors is like progressing through a circular maze The reader roams around the edges at first coming up freuently against dead ends Why is Chad Newsome so difficult to figure out? What are the author’s intentions for Maria Gostrey? Will Mrs Newsome or even her formidable sounding daughter Mrs Pocock ever make a physical appearance in the story? The enigmas in this early stage are such that if the reader found herself accidentally back at the start she might be tempted to abandon the maze altogether But it would be a difficult choice to make because in all her frustrated revolvings she has nevertheless passed through some exuisite passages She continues and little by little she finds herself circling a smaller space and she tells herself that perhaps she is finally getting closer to the heart of the story Yet even when a new direction seems full of promise she still comes up against the same blind alleys as before and she despairs of ever getting to the centreAt this stage she stops worrying about finishing She's enjoying the convoluted paths taking her time and appreciating every twist and turn She is blissful in the face of the beauty of certain passages and asks for nothing than to spend the rest of her life deciphering Jamesian sentences Her bliss is soon disturbed by a new preoccupation In her circling she has picked up a companion Lambert Strether the main character in this third person narrative seems to be walking in her footsteps or she in his She may not understand all his thoughts and desires but she empathizes with him fully as he too circles the central facts of the story enjoying the beauty along the way but encountering the same dead ends as herself And while she enjoys Strether's company very much her discomfort arises from a fear that he may come to grief before the end and she herself alongside him There are many pitfalls in Strether's path he is being used by almost every other character in the narrative while nevertheless trying to serve everyone to the best of his abilities The reader wants to warn him of the dangers to whisper watch out Strether But she has learned something from Maria Gostrey Silent support is what Strether reuires at this point especially as he is about to face the daunting Mrs Pocock looming forth from what seems like another blind alley But Mrs Pocock’s bulk fails to hide the opening leading to the centre of the maze the jump was but short to supreme lucidity Light became indeed after that so intense that Strether would doubtless have but half made out in the prodigious glare by which of the two the issue had been in fact precipitated It was in their contracted uarters as much there between them as if it had been something suddenly spilled with a crash and a splash on the floor The reader can only be in awe of the writer’s skill in delivering her right alongside his main character to the heart of the story—in one blinding flash She looks back at the manner in which she read the earlier sections and realises she was an innocent then incapable yet of understanding Now it has all come to mean something different; she has grown and changed just as Strether has changed He had heard of old only what he could then hear; what he could do now was to think of three months ago as a point in the far past If Lambert Strether and the reader finally reach the point of brutal lucidity it is thanks to the unassuming character of Maria Gostrey We wondered at the beginning about her role in the story It is very simple James needed her to keep the thread Without her there would be no way happy or unhappy for the reader to exit the maze that is The Ambassadors

  2. Violet wells Violet wells says:

    A gay friend of mine once put Henry James’ tendency to play hide and seek with the reader down to the same trait within himself with regards to his sexuality Apparently he was deeply suspicious of everything that gave him pleasure “Nothing came to him simply” And in this novel nothing comes to us simply eitherI think it took me longer to read this than War and Peace And that’s because virtually every sentence is like trying to figure out a rubic cube There’s a moment when a character feels he is moving “in a maze of mystic closed allusions” I couldn’t help wondering if Henry not a renowned comedian was having a laugh at the reader’s expense because that’s exactly what I felt as a reader during this novel There were times when I was reminded of Nabokov and especially Ada another novel that only inches open its door by degrees when we knock So there’s something very modern about The Ambassadors There’s a character who says “Oh I don’t think anything now That is but what I do think” And this kind of mystification these modifying clauses and sub clauses are a constant trait of this novel Every sentence is a maze it takes two readings to get out of It’d be easy to certify this novel as insane an over elaborate joke whose wit is lost on virtually everyone except the author but once I managed to enter into its spirit of wilful obfuscation I began admiring it and Communication after all is one of the major stumbling blocks in our lives Every sentence delivered up to us contains numerous points of departure To understand what’s communicated to us we simplify it and as a result often misrepresent it Rarely is communication straightforward We realise this most keenly when we are in love and find ourselves studying the words of the beloved with a metaphysical microscope In a sense every character in this novel has the keyed up sensibility of the lover both wilfully deflecting and hungrily truth seeking The role of ambassador like lover is to mask the truth as often as to disclose it That said it baffled me when I read afterwards what Henry James thought was the defining passage of this book – “Live all you can it's a mistake not to It doesn't matter what you do in particular so long as you have had your life If you haven't had that what have you had?” Is this novel an exhortation to live life to the full? I don’t understand how any character who circles around an answer to a simple uestion for four paragraphs could be seen as living life to full In the time it takes the characters to arrive at any defining disclosure in this novel one could have caught the Eurostar to Paris and enjoyed lunch on the terrace of a brasserie At times it was like a literary version of Big Brother – watching people who have nothing else to do but plot and unmask amorous or tactical alliances Answers to uestions in this novel always give rise to uestions No one in fact seems capable of ever delivering up a clear answer to any uestion There’s one instance where a character answers a uestion by saying “Yes” and then adding as an afterthought “absolutely not” Whatever anyone says is inevitably ualified sometimes contradicted At the end of every page you can feel you’re back at the beginning Strether on whom all this elaborate subterfuge is enacted does gain our sympathy because in essence his plight is that of all of us – the struggle to make sense of the bigger picture with broken shards of incomplete information like the archaeologist down in the trenches of a dig Interestingly James creates a world in which men are depicted as pawns for the ueenly powers of women until the final stages of the game There’s also a fantastic female villain who never once appears in the novel As usual the poor the downtrodden have no existence whatsoever in Henry James novels An alien reading HJ might think all earthlings have unlimited leisure And there’s a fabulous scene where Strether walks into the living reality of a painting he couldn’t afford to buy when he admired it in a Boston art gallery This was one of the cleverest ways I’ve ever come across of showing how a character has made strides during the course of a narrative There’s no way on earth I’d recommend The Ambassadors and yet ultimately I found it an enriching experience especially in what it has to say about the nature of communication I also ultimately loved the war it wages on commercial fiction’s tendency to encourage skim reading onto the next twist in the plot Just try skim reading this And of course James again like Nabokov can write a dazzling sentence

  3. Henry Avila Henry Avila says:

    Lewis Lambert Strether55 a prim widower considers himself a failure completely dependent on the kindness of wealthy widow and still attractive MrsNewsome from fictional Woollett Massachusetts his fiancee for a living set circa 1900 he's the editor of a small magazine review that is financed by her owner of a company that manufactures it is never said in the novel Sent by Mrs Newsome thus the title The Ambassadors there will be others to get her son the immature Chadwick 28 living in Paris for three years back home and do his duty run the family business but there are complications he is involved his relatives believe in a sordid affair with a married woman but uite a charming one beautiful Marie de Vionnet 38 separated from her brute of a husband MrStether first lands in England to meet his best friend the laconic Waymarsh an American lawyer who has made a great deal of money there but does not like Europe and wants to go home He encounters too bright pretty Maria Gostrey35 another American who skillfully guides tourist around the continent she is very popular they become very close maybe romantically? and Lambert confides in her his many troubles Arriving in the French capital our hero looks around meets all the important people he needs to and strangely begins to change his views becoming tolerant of different ways of living the morality of Woollett seems not to fit here he starts to enjoy the magic of Paris the great museums impressive churches renowned restaurants fun cafes the food wines the river Seine slowing traveling through the metropolis the many boats and people on them the unhurried style of life freedom is intoxicating can this be wrong? The remote MrsNewsome is not happy months have passed no progress reported by Strether she has her daughter Mrs Sarah Pocock her husband and his sister also go help the unsuccessful Ambassador talk to the reluctant Chad this lady's brother is made of sterner stuff than our friend the gentle Lambert Slowly it dawns on the always too trusting gentleman that some inhabitants are lying to Mr Lambert Strether shocking him it makes him think has he been a simpletonBesides our would be hero has to go back home to America and face the music his life will never be the sameThis novel will be enjoyed by fans of Henry James the European and American differences that the author writes about I being both relish but it can be difficult for others his sentences run on some much too long and clarity is not his strength yet the talent shows PS my guess and it's only mine what Mrs Newsome makes are clocks ?

  4. Helle Helle says:

    Henry James has taken circumlocution and obfuscation to new heights in this novel I don’t often rate a book an ungenerous two stars but this novel was in many ways an impossible book for me I appreciate the architecture of James’s novel the beauty of Paris as a backdrop for temporarily exiled Americans to meet and discover or not the underlying theme ‘knowing how to live’ But I never felt the intended drama or the sudden discovery of self partly because I nearly drowned in James’s nebulous impenetrable sentences which while exuding a certain beauty often defied understanding Lambert Strether goes to Paris on behalf of Mrs Newsome who wants her son back in the fold in New England Strether finds Chad Newsome in Paris and he is they all say an altered man He has discovered the moveable feast that the man of simpler prose called this great venue and Strether feels a bit lost Until he begins to feel the pull of Paris as well and of the women residing there This is basically the story Will Chad go back? Will Strether? What will Mrs Newsome do? What about Madame de Vionnet the older French temptress and the exiled American Miss Gostrey who is clearly interested in Strether? I value beautiful prose and don’t always believe in the simplicity of language that writers like Hemingway and King albeit very different writers are proponents of However there were convoluted sentences with embedded clauses which had me going back to disentangle them to make any sense of the story The writing at times seemed willfully obscure Then there is the idiosyncratic placement of adverbs as well as an immense accumulation of adverbs both in the novel as a whole and on sentence level which I’m sorry to say simply annoyed me To wit She immensely wants herself to see our friend’s cousin that she would really perhaps after all have heard He had had vaguely his view of the probability of her wishing to set something right to deal in some way with the fraud so lately practiced on his presumed credibilityHe perceived soon enough at least that however reasonable she might be she wasn’t vulgarly confused and it herewith pressed upon him that their eminent ‘lie’ Chad’s and hers was simply after all such an inevitable tribute to good taste as he couldn’t have wished them not to renderAnd conversations in which people said things like ’Is she that deep?’‘Yes I believe that she is’On which someone typically ponders thus He thought about it serenelyInterestingly the novel was Henry James’s own favourite It is clearly the work of his mature period and I can only say that I prefer him then at his immature This was the third time I approached the novel I had seen the mixed ratings among my GR friends from 2 to 5 stars but approached the novel seeing – as claimed on GR – that Forster had appreciated it Well someone has misread Forster In his Aspects of the Novel Forster says of this novel that James pursued the narrow path of aesthetic beauty but at what sacrifice Forster goes on to say that the characters are stingily constructed show no carnality have limited sensations and that James’s rigid plotting shuts the doors on life This perhaps goes some way to explaining why I never felt the drama that the characters talk about Reading the novel was a stubborn struggle to me and the only thing that comforted me in my inability to appreciate it was that a much missed friend here on GR whose literary judgment I completely trusted and usually agreed with had also rated it two stars I checked this when I began reading the novel the first time at which time he was still hereSo while I want to applaud James’s total and utter disbelief in modern advice though Hemingway was around the corner to leave out anything superfluous and to deliberately go for the overwritten style the story was lost to me in the fogs of obliue language rather than rendered crucial via clear and vibrant language But it is a preference and as Zadie Smith writes in her chapter about Forster in her essay collection His own preference for simplicity he recognized for what it was a preference linked to a dream of mass connection So I hope I do not deter anyone from reading this but you might arm yourself with patience Nor am I done with Henry James but it’ll be his younger briefer self I approach next time

  5. Kinga Kinga says:

    This book asks a lot from the reader and offers precious little in return Of course those who gave it five stars must disagree and think this frustrating word salad was all worth itI could barely stand it The neurotic prose that seemed so unsure and self conscious constantly checking itself in turn clarifying and contradicting almost drove me to insanity When James gave voice to his characters it hardly got better as everyone talked to each other in Sphinx like riddles Friends I did want to like this book The premise was excellent puritanical New England meets flamboyant Paris I promise you I’m not that lazy of a reader but by the end of this novel I started doubting whether I could speak English or if I was even literate An occasional insightful observation was sure to get lost in all that verbiage and when something did eventually occur I almost missed it altogether as I was having an out of body experience where my soul had vacated my earthly shell to go read something riveting like the phonebook of the Cieszyn county from 1985 This could've been a great novel if only someone else had written itAnd after struggling through seven million convoluted sentences that never had the decency to end when a well behaved sentence should end I was rewarded with a revelation that it is in fact in people’s nature to have sexFor a novel about an older man who realises he has never lived may I direct you towards the Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro Please recommend novels about prim and proper Americans in Europe but novels that are actually good

  6. David David says:

    It is important to remember that Henry James's later works his major phase are very much the roots of modern literature whatever that means and should be read in the same way as Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu Joyce's Ulysses Woolf's The Waves and Mrs Dalloway which is to say slowly savored James himself was cognizant of this and admonished his readers to read only five pages a day a challenge which I found impossible but rather read in small ish bits over each day In Barthes's The Pleasure of the Text he advises in reading modern texts as opposed to classical onesRead slowly read all of a novel of Zola and the book will drop from your hands; read fast in snatches some modern text and it becomes opaue inaccessible to your pleasure you want something to happen and nothing does the interstice of bliss occurs in the volume of languages in the uttering no tin the seuence of utterances not to devour to gobble but to graze to browse scrupulously to rediscover This is sound advise suited perfectly to find pleasure in James's The Ambassadors the master's and my own favorite of his works There is a painstaking and almost painful subtlety to James's major phase which is canonized in the present work The Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl a subtlety which was growing in power in his Portrait of a Lady but is in full force in Ambassadors The sentences alone little labyrinths make the work difficult to read uickly and foils any attempts to do so pleasurably The Ambassador is Lewis Lambert Strether an American man from Woollett a conventional but fictional Massachusetts town where he is engaged to be married to the cold and absent figure Mrs Newsome He is sent by Mrs Newsome to Paris to retrieve her son Chad and recruit him to take charge of the family's mysterious manufacturing concern the product is never mentioned outright though it is alluded to as something insignificant but over which the Newsome's hold a monopoly When Strether arrives in Paris he sees that Chad is happily engaged in a romantic relationship with an older woman Mme VionnetThe character of Strether is really the height of James's art An art which usually centers on the innocencecorruption of the female psyche most famously Isabel Archer Milly Theale Kate Croy Daisy Miller Turn of the Screw's governess etc In this work James presents us rather than a central heroine a central man who is affected on all sides by a covey of women this approach is foreshadowed in James's treatment of Merton Densher in Wings of the Dove The three powerful women which both charm and control him are Maria Gostrey Marie de Vionnet and Mrs Newsome; Strether's nuanced relationships with these women constitute the web and drama of James's masterpieceMaria and Marie two names very similar derived from the Virgin Mary play diametrically opposite roles for Strether though he is enchanted by both women To call Marie Mme de Vionnet the story's villain is to misread the novel and would be much too explicit for a work by James she is the nuanced subtle Mme Merle a la The tension of the novel is the tension between those who know and those who do not know namely Strether Mme de Vionnet is in the knowing camp she deceives Strether and keeps him in the dark about the unvirtuous nature of her relationship with the young Chad She is certainly in love with Chad or with her situation and is passionately at odds with his returning to America But to paint her as a villain is too black a lacuer for her; she opposes Strether but she does so with something like love for ChadMaria is Strether's confidant and Strether's growing affection for her makes his ultimate return to Mrs Newsome that much poignant to the reader She represents the life that Strether could still have as opposed to the one which he has now with Mrs Newsome and even opposed to that which he had with his son and wife before the died She represents a freer life one which has elements of European freedom of spirit and also American values honesty etc When reading The Ambassadors I can't help but sympathize accutely with Ms Gostrey She is the book's closest thing to a Jamesian heroine and Strether represents as much a salvation to her as she does to himThe cold and absent shadow of Mrs Newsome is cast far over ever nook and crevice of the book Though she is 3000 miles away in Woollett her presence is felt in every motion and futile rebellion of Strether abroad While Mme de Vionnet deceives Strether it is Mrs Newsome who controls him She is haunting figure and one cannot help but see her as Strether's gaoler imprisoning what is naturally a vibrant optimism and fullness of life to the state of servant The whole of his life is given a thin veneer of meaning by his association with Mrs Newsome but to that point his life has no meaning for himself His name on the green cover where he had put it for Mrs Newsome expressed him doubtless just enough to make the world— the world as distinguished both for and for less from Woollett—ask who he was He had incurred the ridicule of having to have his explanation explained He was Lambert Strether because he was on the cover whereas it should have been for anything like glory that he was on the cover because he was Lambert StretherHe values himself insofar as he is known for editting a small publication in Woollett a post which he has not earned through merit but by his amorous association with Mrs Newsome Further his errand for Mrs Newsome to Europe has the salty taste of a business transaction even so when she sends her daughter to check on his progress and efforts Their relationship is so coldly economic it is almost horrifying to imagine a man as potent and vibrant as Strether as seen in his speech to Little Bilham married to such a domineering woman who treats Strether like an account to be settled rather than a fiance Though the story is relayed exclusively from Strethers point of view Mrs Newsome is never referred to by her first name The petit mort of Portrait of a Lady wherein Isabel returns to Osmond is often rallied against but the Strether's return to Mrs Newsome to me seems as horrible We may hate Osmond and Mme Merle for betraying Isabel's innocence but she remains a strong figure; we must hate with eual or increased vigor Mrs Newsome who stifles the chance of happiness for Strether which he is so expressly aware of which he knows full well are within his grasp which he urges upon Little Bilham upon Chad

  7. David David says:

    “The Ambassadors” by Henry JamesThis is Daisy Fuentes Miller reporting to you live from the set of MTV’s “Real World Gay Paree” Six strangers from totally different backgrounds thrown together forced to live under the merciless glare of the Hankcam which documents their every move for posterity Let’s see what happens when the gloves come off and things get real Strether Hi I’m Strether I’m engaged to Chad’s mom She’s pissed at him and sent me over to bring him back to Connecticut to run the family business Paree sure seems like an awesome party townChad This is the Chadster I don’t wanna go back to Connecticut I’m dating this totally hot older lady Who’s a countess She’s been giving me some private life coaching lessons If you know what I meanCountess ‘allo Zis is Marie you can call me Countess Cougar Sacre bleu but you American boys are fineStrether Damn that countess is one hot MILF Chad – no rush about going home We should just hang out here in Paris and par tay6 weeks laterSarah This is Sarah Chad’s older sister What the f is going on here? Strether you’ve been over six weeks already Mother sent me over She wants you both to haul ass back to Connecticut pronto You can ignore my fat philistine slob of a husband Jim He’s only here to provide a cheap diversion as a lazy stereotype and adds nothing to the plotChad Chill sis This is my girlfriend Marie Ain’t she smokin? Did I mention she’s a countess?Sarah Filthy French slut Chad Mother expects you to do your dutyStrether Dude don’t go It’s a trap Sarah You be uiet And you can forget about marrying Mother Which means you’ll die lonely and poor Strether Bite me Your mother always was one uptight bitch anyway I’ll just stay on here Maybe catch a little menage a trois action with Chad and the Countess Chad Not gonna happen dude Sis tell Mom to take the job and shove it I’m having too much fun tapping aristocratic ass here in Paree Screw Connecticut2 weeks later Strether alone in the confessional room So Sarah and Jim are on the way back home with no hanging Chad My life is totally screwed up But at least I can be happy about getting Chad to do the right thing to avoid the money trap and to choose life2 weeks later Chad alone in the confessional room very drunkYou know I’ve always thought that advertising was where the future is at And there's no two ways about it Marie's boobs have definitely been showing some major saggage Operator Get me the number for the Cunard line pleaseFade to the sound of Strether whimpering pathetically off camera Marie of course goes on to star in the breakout Bravo series “Real Housewives of the 4th arrondissment”OK I'll come clean and admit that I’ve had a definite prejudice against Henry James for as long as I can remember But reading Colm Toibin’s “The Master” last month made me think I should give him another try “The Ambassadors” certainly confirmed my belief in the brilliance of Toibin’s accomplishment It also changed my opinion of James – though I doubt I’ll ever achieve fanboy status it was a far interesting read than I had anticipated In “The Master” Toibin gives us a portrait of James in mid career focusing on the period between 1895 and 1900 It’s eerily well done – it’s almost as if he were channeling the spirit of James Although Toibin is an avowed fan his depiction of the author seems scrupulously honest and right on the mark The picture of Henry that emerges is not entirely flattering – that of someone who is fascinated by the workings of the very privileged segment of society into which he was born with a keen almost obsessive eye for the subtleties and complexities of the relationships among the various players and the talent determination and free time to document it in his writing Even if that came at a certain emotional cost In James’s case that cost appears to have been an inability or unwillingness to form truly deep emotional attachments There seems to have been a pattern of his withdrawing emotionally whenever another person threatened to come too close This was a man who lived far too much of his life in his own headIt shows in the writing of course Every detail of every character’s action no matter how minor is picked apart and analyzed Characters are presented as being engaged in endless analysis and speculation about how to interpret the actions and motives of others And if it takes a page and a half to pin down the precise nuance of A’s reaction to a casual snub by B then so be it – James always assumes that the reader has both the time and interest to stay with him The odd thing is that although this can be a little offputting at the beginning ultimately it becomes kind of hypnotic He is so clearly fascinated by the inner world of his characters that he ultimately draws you in The plot of “The Ambassadors” is wafer thin But the author’s focus on the psychology of his characters is so intense and so believable that one is motivated to keep on reading This was not a dull bookMuch is made of Henry James’s style and I just don’t get it This is a man who never met a subordinate clause he didn’t like with a definite preference for the baroue Hemingway he’s not But his penchant for convoluted sentences means that he’s not particularly easy to read On any given page there is likely to be at least one sentence that you will have to read three times over and still not be sure you understand what he was trying to say He has a way of nesting negative particles in his various subordinate clauses that is particularly evil – I’d find myself counting them on my fingers trying to figure things out Stylistically the writer he reminds me most of is Thomas Mann who also had a penchant for long complicated sentences At least James wasn’t writing in German so there is a limit to how convoluted things get Personally I don’t consider opacity to be a virtue YMMV A book that was far interesting than I had anticipated and which definitely changed my mind about Henry James

  8. BAM The Bibliomaniac BAM The Bibliomaniac says:

    Catching up with the classics # 20I️ am not a fan but I️ WILL finishI hate this book I'm never going to finish thisFor god sake I read this entire book with the main male character Strether making everything his business for him only at the end to say that that none of it his his business WTH was this book about then James????? You must have been paid by the prepositional phrase And had no editor to tell you that most of your novel was extraneous I finally threw up my hands when you wrote the want to want to conversation REALLY???I took the time to read this and that is how it fucking ends???? Really Strether?? What a dude

  9. Katia N Katia N says:

    If I've figured the one thing about this novel for certain that it is not a realistic novel At least not in the sense of the 19th century The people populating it are not real Lets take the main character Lewis Lambert Strether even the name is ridiculous He arrives to Paris from Woollett Massachusetts to fetch Chad the son of his fiancé and the heir of a manufacturing empire on her reuest He appears at the same time the man of great imagination and fantastically perceptive man at that He manages to read the romantic intention of a young girl by watching her for a few minutes standing on the balcony At the same time he misses something which is dead obvious in other romantic relationship he is in charge to actually break Lets take Chad his charge That man we are told has greatly improved in Europe has become refined and “beautiful” But he acts as an infantile and not very bright moron And I am not even talking about a bunch of very strong willed but weirdly disoriented women cast that is apart from the ones from Whoollett So in short the characters can be both perceptive and simpleminded daft and refined free will and puritanic Such characters do not exit in realism but they do in modernism and even in post modernism So this book I think is just a game for James He cannot be bothered with realism or true psychological depth when he plays his comedy It is also made obvious with the famous uestion what is that the manufacturing empire producing? The multiple generation of the readers keep guessing until now He has teased people with that somewhere at the beginning of the novel But I seriously doubt James knows himself That is not the point And I guess if one would not share his sardonic slightly evil sense of humour this book might become a tortureI found the dialogues very funny The blanks in them the repetitions the expletives It is difficult to convey what i mean without a huge uote But for example the use and overuse of the words like “wonderful” “beautiful” “deep” in the context of a person or sharp in the context of the situation might indicate the narrowness of James’s sensual vocabulary We know it could not be further from the case Some people would be irritated But it made me smile again someone else is being wonderfulIs it the first novel addressing middle life crisis? I’ve read somewhere that the term has not been coined until the 60s of the 20th century But our lovely Strether has come to Paris to experience it and he jolly well does I do not know whether it sounded revolutionary in 1904 Many people especially of a male gender come to a certain age and try to regain whatever was missed earlier often in a romantic sphere It is described poignantly here but again the situations constantly border the comic ones he “relapsed into the sense which had for him in these days most of the comfort that he was free to believe in anything that from hour to hour kept him going” It is a great sentence isn’t it? On the one level it is a perfect life philosophy On the other it is simple wishful thinking So it depends on the user very muchSometimes i felt that while writing James was not uite sure where he was going to end with all of this And that let me down somewhat as I was primed on suspense and psychological depth of his short stories I expected the powerful twist at the end It has come But the power of it was actually in the banality of the revelation Was it James’s strength on this occasion? I am not sure But I think what was definitely very strong in the novel was leaving a lot of open possibilities at the very end Since I came up with my perceived “what happened next” I’ve read very different perceived ends from the others And this is what I appreciate the most in the novelsAnd now the sentences One certainly need to work on them Though after the first 20 pages or so it is becoming much easier Some of them are truly beautiful as only a language can be This one is about Paris “the vast bright Babylon like some huge iridescent object a jewel brilliant and hard in which parts were not be discriminated nor differences comfortably marked It twinkled and trembled and melted together and what seemed all surface one moment seemed all depth the next” In general the sense of place in the book is magicAnd not all of them are so long This one is almost Joycean “He only glowered grandly at the tops of the old gables”But some of the sentences while deciphered individually do not come to much in terms of meaning I guess it is not always the point The idea has come to me uite late in the book to listen to it on audio And yes it is great These sentences flow audibly with all musicality of the language And the dialogues stood out as well I might listen to the whole book one dayI am new to James I liked this novel a lot But it did not beat for me “Aspern papers” and other stories in the only other book by him I’ve read before so far The Aspern Papers and Other Tales Those were “deeper” using the one of James’s favourite words in this book This novel is clearly not for everyone But it could very entertaining for the right sort of a reader

  10. Elizabeth Urello Elizabeth Urello says:

    I’m sure Henry James is a genius and all but untangling his prose is like trying to talk to a verbose over educated person who’s drunk off his ass but refuses to pass out For example he might start off with “The effect of the man’s speech was as if he were a tippler who” then meanders here there and over there to the other bar and then wanders back toward you but veering off at the last second borrows several drinks by which I mean to imply words off surrounding tables by which I mean words that ought to belong to other sentences entirely and then seeing the end of the sentence approaching which by continuation of our metaphor would be meant to suggest the end of the night or bed or the end of drinking festivities which drunk would prefer at all accounts to avoid and so stalls to keep off at a distance he throws any number of adverbs barstools prepositions gerunds and the like in between himself and that end and once you are fully convinced he has lost all sight of his aim in telling you the original anecdote he had introduced he sometimes arrives back at that point but other times he does not and if you were to map his meanderings it would take a smarter person than most readers nowadays to derive any sense from it and at that point the other woman whirled right out of the room and the first though not affected by the same thing to the same degree of the latter or rather it was the same thing but she did not derive from it the same intent but was nevertheless affected in a different way of her own said “My word what a lot of” but then hung fireSo that’s what reading The Ambassadors is like all the way through The other problem with the book is that it was written in a time when Americans had a hard time believing anybody on Earth was actually fucking since nobody in America was The premise of the book is that the narrator has been sent to bring back his fiancé’s son who is having an illicit affair with a married she’s permanently separated from her abusive husband woman in Paris but when he gets there he really likes the woman and he really likes Paris and he really likes the son than he did before and so he decides the son might be better off there But he convinces himself somewhat that maybe the son’s relationship with the married woman isn’t technically sexual and then spoiler alert? at the end he has this big realization when he can’t pretend any that it isn’t Except being a modern young woman I didn’t get that AT ALL and read the whole thing assuming that he knew they were a full fledged couple but that he didn’t in these particular circumstances think it was immoral So then when his grand realization came I was all “Oh wait hold on This was a thing? Oh I guess it was THE thing Where have I been?” JUST SAY WHAT YOU MEAN HENRY JAMES Actually this is a really hilarious novel when looked at in hindsight but as you’re thwacking through the jungle of it it’s pretty tiresome and also I think I am far too stupid to understand this book

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