Thursday, May 17, 2007

Oh Henry!

I enjoyed Benjamin Markovits's TLS review of the first two volumes of Henry James's letters, though these two sentences confused me—

One sign of a great letter-writer may be that the chief interest of the letters does not lie in the way they expose their author. On these terms, the young James was far from a great correspondent.

(I must have read this five times...!)

Here's a terrific passage from one of the letters:

Wherever we go we carry with us this heavy burden of our personal consciousness + wherever we stop we open it out over our heads like a great baleful cotton ombrella, to obstruct the prospect + obscure the light.

I love how "baleful" leads to "cotton" (as in a bale of cotton)—and that old spelling of "umbrella"; I guess it must come from "shadow," which I'd never quite thought about...

* * *

Remember the Seinfeld where Elaine's braless friend is the heir to the Oh Henry! candybar fortune? They must have chose that brand deliberately, eh? (I mean—given the O. Henry–like twists that often occur on Seinfeld.)

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