Crying “Uncle!”

A little while back I wrote about feeling underwhelmed by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I surmised that the story contained way too much tell and not nearly enough show. Holy Batcave, I had no idea how much worse it could get.

I just slogged through 60 pages of The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James,portrait of a lady cover and am giving up. Publicly. Because while I felt letdown by Conrad’s penchant for telling his reader how to feel about his characters, at least Heart of Darkness was relatively brief. Not so with The Portrait of a Lady which is a whopping and mind-numbingly verbose 550 pages. And many, many of those 550 pages consist of one long paragraph that continues for another page or more.

I conceded defeat on page 61. James wrote: “When Isabel was interested, she asked a great many questions . . .”

Really, Mr. James? You felt the need to smack this reader over the head, AGAIN, with that tidbit of information? You didn’t think all the time you’d already spent committing mind-masturbation on Isabel Archer would be enough?! I read your words and understood you wanted me to grasp that everyone around Isabel views her as a bright and independent young woman who values her independence, and that Isabel also considers herself to be bright and independent and so lives her life accordingly which means asking lots of questions so she can continue being, you know, bright and independent.

Life’s too short. There are oodles of other books on my shelves I haven’t yet read.

3 thoughts on “Crying “Uncle!”

    • I’ve read a bunch of the classics (and have many more to read), and for the most part, find much to appreciate in them. Even though I crabbed about Heart of Darkness, I did admire the atmospheric writing and sensory details. Portrait of a Lady, however, was not my cup o’ tea, and not because I’m opposed to lengthy novels; I read and absolutely loved Moby Dick. This one left me cold, though, and I can see where it would put people off the classics!


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