Henry James: Novels 1903-1911 The Ambassadors/ The Golden Bowl/ The Outcry (Hardcover)
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Nearly thirty years in the making, The Library of America's eleven-volume edition of the complete fiction of Henry James now culminates with this authoritative volume collecting his final three finished works. Considered by James to be his most finely constructed novel, The Ambassadors (1903) recounts the attempts of a conscientious American to convince the son of a friend to return home from Paris-and in doing so plays the charm of the Old World against the provincialism of the New. In The Golden Bowl (1904), an American woman marries an Italian prince while her father unknowingly marries the prince's former mistress; James underscores both the fragility and strength of human ties and further develops what he once called the "complex fate, being an American." Originally written for the stage but never produced, James reworked The Outcry (1911) into a highly successful comic novel of social manners that also deals with the ethics of art collecting. Included as an appendix is "The Married Son," the chapter James contributed to The Whole Family (1908), a multi-author novel conceived by William Dean Howells and portraying a dysfunctional family whose struggles mirror the frustrated collaborative efforts of the book's twelve contributors.
Henry James was born into a wealthy Irish-American family who settled mainly in New York City's Greenwich Village and in Albany, New York, but lived and traveled extensively in Europe while Henry was growing up. Educated at a variety of schools in the U.S. and abroad, Henry spent a year at Harvard Law School, which he loathed, and used his time haunting the library and attending James Russell Lowell's lectures at Harvard College. Soon after, he began publishing short stories and reviews. When he was in his late teens, he spent much of his time on his own in Europe--chiefly England, France, and (his favorite) Italy--and, as he approached his 30s he became a virtual resident of Europe, returning to the U.S. only for brief periods. James became increasingly successful, wealthy, and respected as a writer of fiction and as a critic; his brilliantly insightful prefaces to his novels have influenced many writers. His attempts to write plays were all sad failures: To be a successful dramatist was a lifelong dream for James, but he seemed to lack the ability to dramatize action anywhere but on the printed page. In 1896 he settled at Lamb House, in Sussex, where he lived until his death in 1916. Reactions to James's work range from scorn and impatience (H. G. Wells called him "a hippopotamus resolved at any cost...upon picking up a pea") to reverence. Despite his increasing mannered and challenging style, James's work endures as great literature because of his humane sensibility, his insight into American and European culture, his moral clarity, his delicate wit, and the lucid subtlety of his language.
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