Tuesday, May 23, 2006

our gorgeous friends in their gawky adolescence

The latest edition of Bookforum features a look at the first novel by Craig Seligman with recollections from William H. Gass and Jonathan Lethem, among others.

"She had dragged a heavy gun to the front; she determined to fire her shot." The woman in question is a wealthy widow who's been spoiling for an argument when—unexpectedly, disappointingly—her adversary backs down. The improbability of the image, slightly absurd in its ponderousness, marks its provenance instantly: This could be a sentence from The Golden Bowl. It comes, in fact, from Watch and Ward, written in 1870, serialized in the Atlantic Monthly the following year, revised and published between hard covers in 1878, and then forgotten; and it's a delight to find that on his first foray, at the age of twenty-seven, Henry James is already so thoroughly Henry James. Watch and Ward is an unassuming book, the opposite of Adam Bede in ambition and scope. But its felicities are many and its flaws are few.