02 February 2012
Devotees of the classic short story (and it's more relaxed cousin, the 'tale') should head over pronto to our Henry James sub-site. We've just posted analyses of a number of his greatest stories. As it happens they're all to do with writers and their relationships with readers, the public, and posterity - things which were clearly on the mind of the Master as he approached the climax of his career. The Death of the Lion is a sad tale of a novelist who is swallowed up by his own fans. The Coxon Fund is almost its opposite: a writer and great talker manages to secure a grant from a rich patroness, but then produces nothing for the remainder of his life. The Middle Years is about an author who feels he is about to produce his best work, but needs 'another shot at life' in order to achieve it. And The Figure in the Carpet is a famous literary puzzle: an author claims that there's a hidden pattern in his work and sets critics on a quest to detect it. But he dies before revealing what it is. Every one of these stories is a first class work of art, from a great novelist. Henry James may not be the easiest of writers: his sentences tend to be long and his syntax complex. But he repays attention. Read these tales, and you'll want to read more.