247. (Stendhal)

  Stendhal is exhausting and bracing because his energy is relentless and directed relentlessly to one end: the refusal of “style.” It is sometimes said that was painfully aware that he was incapable of style; I think it likely he realized it to be an achievement. To say Stendhal has no style might seem to echo Arnold’s remark about Wordsworth. It is vastly different in … Continue reading 247. (Stendhal)

220. (Willa Cather)

It’s not only re-reading Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House at the same time as reading the final volumes of Proust’s novel that brings the one into proximity of the other. It is also passages like the following: To this day St. Peter regretted that he had never got that vacation in Paris with Tom Outland. He had wanted to revisit certain spots with him: to go … Continue reading 220. (Willa Cather)

161. (William Gaddis)

Though The Recognitions may have overwhelmed more powerfully, submerging and clinging with an undercurrent, JR (so far; nearing a half-way mark) is the more astonishing novel, for the technical challenge it confronts, overcomes, and redeems—redemption being necessary because a novel depending on a limitation of form or technique alone needs, for success, to prove that the challenge opened a new horizon, accommodated feeling and thought … Continue reading 161. (William Gaddis)

159. (William Gaddis)

T.S. Eliot’s claim that Henry James had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it might be misunderstood as disguised disparagement or understood, against the intentions of the critic, as damning praise; it might also be taken as a stupid statement. I think it might suppose an alignment of mind and work, so that Eliot really is referring to the quality of the … Continue reading 159. (William Gaddis)

158. (George Eliot)

Six, and possibly seven, models were available for the realist novel in the nineteenth century. First, the novel of social order and disorder, in which society is an engine with efficiency and waste, or with conservation and loss (Austen, Dickens, Hardy, Zola at times; the novel of manners and naturalism are both potentially in this category–that is because this category could likely swell to fit … Continue reading 158. (George Eliot)

150. (Cao Xueqin)

This morning, I deleted, for the first time, one of the posts on this blog, the most recent, on Marguerite Yourcenar. Then, meandering through Easter Sunday with a book, I finally finished, somewhat exhausted, the second volume in Cao Xueqin’s The Story of the Stone.  It’s an extraordinary novel, in five volumes, not only like Proust because it spans thousands of pages, but because of the … Continue reading 150. (Cao Xueqin)

115. (Italo Svevo)

Italo Svevo, whose talent was recognized and whose career was partially rescued by Joyce, is not much read nowadays. Joyce’s favorite Svevo novel was not Zeno’s Conscience, which is most well-known, but instead the earlier (1898) As a Man Grows Older (available through New York Review of Books). The novel is easy to classify as charming, sad, a curious blend of the pathetic and ridiculous, comedic in its … Continue reading 115. (Italo Svevo)