Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Books for the News, Literature

The New Yorker on The Daily Henry James

Below follows an excerpt from a recent profile in the New Yorker about The Daily Henry James: A Year of Quotes from the Work of the Masterfirst published as a limited edition in 1911, and back for the masses in the new year, with a foreword by Michael Gorra, c/o the University of Chicago Press. Read the original, in full, here.


In his preface to the New York edition of “Roderick Hudson,” James wrote, “Really, universally, relations stop nowhere, and the exquisite problem of the artist is eternally but to draw . . . the circle within which they shall happily appear to do so.” In “The Daily Henry James,” relations begin nowhere: the fragments have no connection to one another, and don’t add up to any meaningful narrative. The result is that the book offers Jamesian atmosphere rather than Jamesian plots: flicking through the anthology, you experience the elements that make up James’s novels in the way that you might experience them in real life. You see characters briefly, as at a party or in the street; virtually every page provides an observation on the American character, a description of the grounds of an English country house, a fastidious young man reflecting on the character of a great artist, or someone pondering what one should do with youth, wealth, and beauty. . . .

Part of the purpose of this book, one begins to think, is to emphasize bookishness itself. In the face of digitization, print features that gesture toward former ways of reading become more popular: deckle edges on hardbacks (as if the pages really were cut with a paper knife), French flaps on paperbacks (a relatively recent phenomenon in America, but one that carries an old-fashioned air). “The Daily Henry James” is small, but its cyclical quality—reach the end, turn back to the beginning the very next day—lends it a sense of permanence. It will belong on shelves a decade from now, it seems to say, as much as it does today, or did a century ago.


To read more about The Daily Henry James, click here.