Another project for next year: The James FamilyNovember 22, 2009
A few posts ago, I mentioned that I was hoping to reread all of Jane Austen’s books in the order in which they were written. Another goal of mine for next year is to complete a project that I had hoped to do this summer–the James family project. Earlier this year, I read a phenomenal biography of William James called William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism. It was one of my top ten books of 2009, and I might even say that it changed my life. The spirited way that James lived his life, despite his many mental and physical difficulties, was inspiring.
I also happens that this year I read an old copy of Henry James’s Wings of the Dove. It’s certainly one of the most difficult books that I read this year, but it was worth every minute. James’s insights into human psychology–particularly female psychology–are quite moving. I’m not sure is this is an actual quotation or if it’s just an aphorism, but it is said that “William James wrote psychology like a novelist; Henry James wrote novels like a psychologist.” A truer statement couldn’t be written. These brothers both lived interesting lives and wrote contemplative books.
After I finished the William James biography, I immediately went home and pulled out all the books I have about the family–a surprisingly large amount! Clearly, this was an infatuation in development. Briefly, the books: The Master is a fictional account of the late part of Henry James’s life. The Turn of the Screw is a novella by Henry James that I’ve read twice before but never fully understood. I bought this Norton Critical Edition in the hopes that the surrounding documents in this book will help me. Lions at Lamb House is a fictional account of the actual meeting of three great men at Henry’s house in England: Freud, Henry, and William. Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death is a nonfiction book whose title says it all.
My project next year will be to read all of these books before I forget all of the wonderful information that I gained from reading William James’s biography. I will also supplement the reading with The Ambassadors, the second of “the big three” Henry James novels. (I intend to read The Golden Bowl, the last of the three, next year.) I would also like to read an actual William James book, though I haven’t decided which yet. I am also considering reading Alice James’s diary. So it looks like next year will be the year of James and Austen!