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The Museum of What Happens

From: The Henry James Review
Volume 26, Number 3, Fall 2005
pp. 256-264 | 10.1353/hjr.2005.0026

Abstract

This essay reads James with and against Nabokov. Taking on what has been called James's unreadable novel, The Sacred Fount, Wood begins by asking quite plainly how do we read sentences of the sort offered by James in that experimental novel and by Nabokov in that tricksy experiment in form, Pale Fire. Beginning with the similarities between these two reading experiences, Wood argues that a too ready acceptance of irony—that modernist and post-modernist mode in which we have all been trained by the recent history of the novel—blinds us to the very oddness of James's narrator and to the delicate balance between suspicion and belief that James asks of us.