Log in

No account? Create an account
De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Harry Pussy Bysshe
I was reading Hermione Lee's review of the latest book on the famous James family, by Paul Fisher, yesterday and trying to figure out whether I liked it or not. Although it was a little too sprawling for my taste, I appreciated Lee's attention to language, as when she provided a list of some the biographer's favorite phrases. And then I came across a paragraph that made me laugh out loud in pleasure and admiration:
Fisher’s most disconcerting decision is to refer, throughout, to Henry James as “Harry.” This is fair enough when he is a little boy, but leads to trouble when he becomes a major novelist and legendary subject of biography. So we get “Harry’s smash-hit novella ‘Daisy Miller,’” and “Harry finished his final installment of ‘The Portrait of a Lady,’” and Leon Edel’s “painstaking analysis of Harry.” It’s as if I had written a whole biography of Edith Wharton referring to her by her childhood nickname, “Pussy," or as if Richard Holmes had called Shelley throughout by his family name, “Bysshe.”
I don't know whether the chain of sound association here was consciously selected, but it sure is funny, especially in a review of a book with lots of material about Henry James's presumed sexual repression.

Tags: , ,
Current Location: 85704

1 comment or Leave a comment
jstgerma From: jstgerma Date: July 7th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Have you read The Master? Colm Toibin was here last semester and kept talking about it. It's a heavily researched fictional biography, I guess you could call it, and it's all about Henry's (or Harry's, if you prefer) sexual repression. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard good things.
1 comment or Leave a comment