Wednesday, July 11, 2012

_The Sacred Fount_

From the Wikipedia article on The Sacred Fount - "This strange, often baffling book concerns an unnamed narrator who attempts to discover the truth about the love lives of his fellow-guests at a weekend party in the English countryside. . . . many have expressed simple bewilderment over what, if anything, James was trying to accomplish in the novel. James himself said that the book was "calculated to minister to curiosity," but many have maintained that the novel does little or nothing to reward that curiosity. . . .  . Indeed in a letter dated March 15th 1901 to Mrs Humphry Ward James declared 'I say it in all sincerity – the book isn't worth discussing [...] I hatingly finished it; trying to make it – the one thing it could be – a consistent joke.'"

Honestly, it's a pretty amazing book - not that I would recommend it to you if you are not already a James fan.  But coming from my perspective it sort of corroborates everything I've ever believed about James.

Here's a quotation: "If I was free, that was what I had been only so short a time before, what I had been as I drove, in London, to the station. Was this now a foreknowledge that, on the morrow, in driving away, I should feel myself restored to that blankness? The state lost was the state of exemption from intense obsessions, and the state recovered would therefore logically match it. If the foreknowledge had thus, as by the stir of the air from my friend's whisk of her train, descended upon me, my liberation was in a manner what I was already tasting. Yet how I also felt, with it, something of the threat of a chill to my curiosity! The taste of its being all over, that really sublime success of the strained vision in which I had been living for crowded hours—was this a taste that I was sure I should particularly enjoy? Marked enough it was, doubtless, that even in the stress of perceiving myself broken with I ruefully reflected on all the more, on the ever so much, I still wanted to know!"  It's alarming the degree to which I can really empathize with the narrator as James describes him, even if one freely admits that my interests are rather different from his.  But frankly this book is the most accurate, persuasive description of what obsession/inspiration feels like for me that I have ever read.

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