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Friday, December 15, 2006

The Latest Thing I'm Reading

I'm reading Henry James right now (well, not right now because I'm typing), and it's really my first return to so-called "canonical" literature for pleasure in a long, long time. Maybe since I graduated high school.

I was reading during a cardio workout at the gym last week, and this part made me laugh out loud:

"She had no talent for expression and too little of the consciousness of genius; she had only the general idea that people were right when they treated her as if she were rather superior. Whether or no she were superior, people were right in admiring her if they thought so; for it seemed to her often that her mind moved more quickly than theirs and this encouraged an impatience that might easily be confused with superiority. It may be affirmed without delay that Isabel was probably liable to the sin of self-esteem; she often surveyed with complacency the field of her own nature; she was in the habit of taking for granted, on scanty evidence, that she was right; she treated herself to occasions of homage. Meanwhile her errors and delusions were frequently such as a biographer interested in preserving the dignity of his subject must shrink from specifying. Her thoughts were a tangle of vague outlines which had never been corrected by the judgement of people speaking with authority. In matters of opinion she had had her own way, and it had led her into a thousand ridiculous zigzags. At moments she discovered she was grotesquely wrong, and then she treated herself to a week of passionate humility. After this she held her head higher than ever; for it was no use, she had an unquenchable desire to think well of herself."

And that is about the best thing I've read lately, with the possible exception of Bill Bryson's new book, which is just as witty and as well-put, but for longer stretches at a time.

1 comment:

Tammy said...

My God (laughing hysterically) -- it's as if Henry James reached into my ridiculously narcissistic soul and beat me over the head with my own ego.

I may even be inspired to read something as literarily significant as Henry James for no other reason than to feel superior and be fantastically proud of myself. LOL.

What a great quote.

-- Isabel (er, Tammy)