Sunday, May 17, 2009
I often found myself calling out to my junior year high school English teacher while reading The Ambassadors. I can only describe this undertaking as a literary journey in its purest form and frankly it was not one I was prepared to make on my own. Ms Tramontine would have certainly provided the explanations needed to fully appreciate some of the finest uses of the English language I have ever come across.
The journey was the same as one would experience in its more traditional definition with moments of frustration and confusion later disregarded after witnessing glimpses of sheer beauty - in this case a result of a series of sentences written with such fluidity that left me smiling and then rereading the prose out loud.
I have since read a handful of literary reviews on this work that James claimed to be his best. One theme emerging more than once is how it is a difficult book to break into initially. I concur, succeeding only to do so in the last one hundred pages.
The story in itself, is simple in nature especially when comparing it to modern fiction which is constantly being required to push the creative envelope. A young American in the early 20th century is having too much fun in Paris. His concerned mother sends her fiancée to convince the son to return to the States to take over their successful business. However, upon arrival the fiancée is overcome with the beauty and splendor of Paris and its gens. He meets the son and his friends who he finds to be fabulous in all senses. Several different women play vital roles throughout the story yet the book is free of sex and expressions of hedonism. Yet, James' greatest ability is how he enhances the tensions in these relationships using the subtle aspects of human nature often not written about - the longer than usual glance, the words not spoken in that moment.
I do want to read this book again as there is bound to be so much more to be gotten from it. If anyone in my vast blog audience would like to join me on this journey please let me know. I cannot offer to be the guide, per se, but perhaps the role of the scout could be a more realistic and suiting one.