Review of “The Jolly Corner” (1908)


Henry James (writer).

Read in 2017.

An already wealthy man imagines how spending the last 33 years differently might have made him wealthier. It really keeps him up at night.

This is just barely, by a hair’s breadth in the form of a corroborating witness, the Todorovian marvelous. The writing is gratingly indirect and circumlocuitous for 1908. Here’s the second sentence:

He was talking to Miss Staverton, with whom for a couple of months now he had availed himself of every possible occasion to talk; this disposition and this resource, this comfort and support, as the situation in fact presented itself, having promptly enough taken the first place in the considerable array of rather unattenuated surprises attending his so strangely belated return to America.

Whereas in The Turn of the Screw (1898), elaborate language helps James’s modernist ambiguity, here it does not. The idea deserved better treatment.

text fiction