Difficulty of style of Henry James.

It’s not obvious to me why I find James so hard to read: his sentences are not, in general, long, and his syntax is not, usually, tortuous. But there is an idiom at work here (often involving phrases such as “come at” “make up to”) which seems peculiar to a social group in which one doesn’t indigenously belong, an idiom in which the prepositions deployed are frequently not those one would expect.

Wandering in and out of metaphor, one comes upon a culminating sentence that, by its tone, promises to be revelatory about the scene which has just passed, but which one feels is not entirely grammatical. . . This is another thing.

Where there is a murkiness and obvious obscurity to certain passages of Faulkner, say, there is to James a more, as it were, ice-like dilemma of believing it is clear then discovering it is hard; and where a Faulkner or Joyce sentence might be unpacked and parsed –or clearly can’t be unpacked– with James, the feeling is, you need a dictionary that doesn’t exist. Needed to have belonged to that social group.

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