Friday, December 30, 2005

Book No. 45: The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories by Henry James

The "other stories" mentioned in the title were "Sir Edmund Orme," "Owen Wingrave," and "The Friends Of The Friends," all of which deal with hauntings of some sorts. The real prize here is, of course, "The Turn Of The Screw," a short story more perfect than I remembered from my freshman Victorian Lit class. James's prose is so carefully considered and honed that it renders the delicious ambiguities of the story to be completely hidden unless one is looking for the craft. His narrator is wonderfully unreliable, with most of her reported conversations ripe with potential meanings. We know what she is thinking, generally, but she passes so quickly over the specifics of how she learns certain things that a careful reader, when going back to re-read, will find all sorts of information she has glossed over in her haste to reach her point. I thought I didn't care much for James, but I think now (15 years later) that I'm going to have to re-read some of his novels.


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