Henry James was acclaimed, but never popular or loved and in the late 1800s, in a Quixotic move, he decided he'd have a better shot at making money and reaching a wider audience by writing plays. It was not to be. His play "Guy Domville" flopped and James was booed on stage. To add insult to injury, his rival (it was a one sided rivalry) Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" was the next play the company would stage and it, of course, was a rousing success. His failure and recovery is detailed in David Lodge's engaging novel "Author, Author." While lesser authors may have simply retreated, James launched one of the most extraordinary late careers of any novelist, writing such dense and difficult works as "The Golden Bowl," "What Maisie Knew," and "The Ambassadors." Favoring irony and ambiguity over traditional themes and narratives and offering a deep exploration of human consciousness (his brother William coined the term "stream of consciousness"), James forged a new kind of novel and laid the groundwork for the modern novel. This is an interesting transition work, as it relies heavily on dialogue (perhaps a holdover from his drama years) and doesn't feel as coherent or fully realized as his more impressive late novels. Not for the James novice.
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