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The Ambassadors by Henry James

The Ambassadors (1903)

by Henry James

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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Read a James omnibus and that was enough.
  librisissimo | Feb 9, 2019 |
Mediocre. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Dec 18, 2018 |
I was pointed towards Henry James by those who had read my own interminable contributions to a half-forgotten creative writing collaboration on LibraryThing, so I feel obliged to let it be known that I consider my prose, however long-winded and polysyllabic, as nevertheless infinitely more comprehensible than James's experiments in syntax so convoluted that it might be called non-Euclidean, and managing to be simultaneously over- and under-punctuated.

I find it hard to understand or articulate why I enjoyed reading this book, but I did. Two particular moments stand out, of a kind of euphoria. One, inevitably, was when I finally reached the climax (on page 349) and the rapidly following conclusion (on page 393). The other, earlier, was when I realized, about halfway through the book, that my sense of bafflement as a reader, floundering about in James's labyrinthine sentences, precisely mirrored that of the narrator and focalizer, Lambert Strether, completely befogged among the sophisticated young men of the world and femmes du monde who dance arabesques around him as he bumbles stolidly around Paris, ruminating obsessively as he goes. Was this, then, deliberate on the part of the author? None of his characters ever seems to say anything directly, but utters little allusions to things unsaid or half-said, skirting delicately around all actual topics of conversation, just as the author frequently steps delicately around the events of the plot, passing on only Strether's subsequent contemplations of them. Confronted with the most opaque prose I have ever encountered, I eventually gave up trying to parse James's sentences, decode his arcane idioms, or unpack the extended metaphors which seemed to go underground like twining roots and emerge unexpectedly some paragraphs later. I resorted to a kind of impressionistic reading in which I let words and paragraphs wash over me, leaving a blurred image of a narrative like a smudged painting. A happy decision: since finishing the book, I have discovered that James is, indeed, regarded as an Impressionist writer; so trying to read his prose like that of a conventional novel is like trying to find the outlines of objects in a pointillist landscape.

MB 22-i-2018 ( )
  MyopicBookworm | Jan 22, 2018 |
Found this one quite dull, probably not the best Summer read for me. ( )
  brakketh | Jan 17, 2018 |
I read this in college, in a seminar on Dickens and James with Prof G Armour Craig (later interim Pres of Amherst College). I know I wrote one of my best papers on this novel, culminating in revelations at the ending: of course, Jamesian narrators are very surprised by sophisticated European affairs that more naive Americans are drawn into. Once home, I shall find my copy and look for my notes, to fill out a review.
I still haven't found my copy of the novel, though I did locate my essay on it for Armour Craig's Eng 68, AmColl '65, which I dust off and--beware--publish. Start with some quotations, "Was it after all a joke that he should be serious about anything?" (124, dif ed). There was "simply a lie in the charming affair"(311). "'Ah prepare while you're about it,' said Strether,"to be more amusing.'Well, you are amusing--to me.' 'Impayable, as you say, no doubt,'But what am I to myself?'"(132)
And I write, "James's education for Strether I suppose to work from a seriousness to an appreciation of art in human [French] terms, to a final, higher seriousness, the seriousness of personal core beyond art, known through revealing intimacy." "The critical problem with this novel focuses in the ending. I take the ending to be meant as 'serious,' a high American magnanimity manifested in final self-sacrifice. What Strether has learned is sufficient for his deepest happiness. But I think this is contrived. James ends the novel so completely that Strether is going back to a world which can in no way be seen in the novel; it is an 'other' world. 'Yes, he goes back other, and to other things," James says in his project for the novel.
Strether has been offered the opportunity to live, but he sacrifices it 'to be right.' Yet he sacrifices for no alternative; he is gaining nothing but an escape from the world he has rejected. His education is a joke; he has learned that he is 'grey,' but he chooses to become even greyer. It is a joke that James's highest seriousness fails to open Strehter's path to intimacy."

Oh, as for this edition I did not use in 1965, edited by Harry Levin, I once had a great discussion with him over lunch at the Shakespeare Association of America, or possibly the RSA. We happened to sit next each other at a round table for eight. I had quoted, depended on Levin as a T.A. in a Minnesota Joyce courses, as well as for my knowledge of comparative lit, and I had recently heard his fine talk on Shakespeare and certain other classics. But at the table we largely discussed my Amherst Coll Shakespeare prof, Theodore Baird, who had invented a great Freshman Writing course, he and my own freshman teacher, Armour Craig. On leave from Amherst, Craig had taught a Harvard novel course though his Ph.D. there had been in 17C lit. Baird was a renegade from Harvard, doubted its teaching of writing and sometimes its scholarly writing, too. Baird had been a student of Kittredge's, and always joked about his often dreaming of examinations: "Sometimes I do very well." ( )
1 vote AlanWPowers | Feb 25, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (48 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Jamesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Edel, LeonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Levin, HarryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Poole, AdrianEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stallman, R.W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Strether's first question, when he reached the hotel, was about his friend; yet on his learning that Waymarsh was apparently not to arrive till evening he was not wholly disconcerted.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140432337, Paperback)

The Ambassadors, which Henry James considered his best work, is the most exquisite refinement of his favorite theme: the collision of American innocence with European experience. This time, James recounts the continental journey of Louis Lambert Strether--a fiftysomething man of the world who has been dispatched abroad by a rich widow, Mrs. Newsome. His mission: to save her son Chadwick from the clutches of a wicked (i.e., European) woman, and to convince the prodigal to return to Woollett, Massachusetts. Instead, this all-American envoy finds Europe growing on him. Strether also becomes involved in a very Jamesian "relation" with the fascinating Miss Maria Gostrey, a fellow American and informal Sacajawea to her compatriots. Clearly Paris has "improved" Chad beyond recognition, and convincing him to return to the U.S. is going to be a very, very hard sell. Suspense, of course, is hardly James's stock-in-trade. But there is no more meticulous mapper of tone and atmosphere, nuance and implication. His hyper-refined characters are at their best in dialogue, particularly when they're exchanging morsels of gossip. Astute, funny, and relentlessly intelligent, James amply fulfills his own description of the novelist as a person upon whom nothing is lost. --Rhian Ellis

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:26 -0400)

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Sent to Paris by a wealthy matron to retrieve her son, Strether becomes sidetracked by intriguing complications

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