The best books we read in 2015

Janes:

The Portrait of a Lady

Henry James

69-a-Portrait-of-a-Lady

No one delves into a character’s psychology quite like Henry James, and in Isabel Archer, he found a protagonist more than worthy of his meticulous deconstruction. She’s a formidable intellectual who doesn’t see the value in intellectual pursuits, she’s an idealist who isn’t quite sure what her ideals are, she’s an independent who is completely and utterly controlled by the malignant, vicious people in her life. She has a complex, distinctive personality and an indomitable will, all of which is systematically broken down by a small man with “exquisite taste.” It’s as tragic as it is insightful, sensitively portraying the experience of patriarchal oppression through the eyes of a woman who is determined to “behave picturesquely.”

Acquired: through kht, who warned me I would relate to the protagonist to an uncomfortable extent. I’ve thrice been told that I am like Isabel Archer, once as a lament, once as a compliment [To be clear, this was me –kht], and once as a scathing criticism. Only a Henry James character could find so many different ways to be relatable to a real person’s life.

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Proust, Picasso, and Prose Poetry: Swann’s Way as an Emptying of Impressions

“The thing that I want to insist upon is that Picasso’s gift is completely the gift of a painter and a draughtsman, he is a man who always has the need of emptying himself, of completely emptying himself, it is necessary that he should be greatly stimulated so that he could be active enough to empty himself completely.”

So says Gertrude Stein in her intimate, lyrical biography of Picasso, which is not so much a chronology of his life as it is a love letter to his artistry. Among many other things, she submits that Picasso’s creative impetus derived from a need to empty himself of certain reverberating impressions; he would become captivated, even tormented by an idea or image, and by painting, he would purge that image from his mind and be done with it.

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