Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady, an early work, was published in book form in 1881 after…
Both artist and bookseller stand at the vanguard of culture. Both struggle for something essentially impractical, unlucrative, and yet unspeakably necessary. Both have labored to build a life in accordance with a passionate vision. Both accumulate intangible rewards, usually in the absence of lower gratifications (prestige, affluence, vacations). Both are cursed and blessed to live in the conviction that what they do has relevance and worth in this world — to spend their days in service to something they love unreasonably and irredeemably.
As I approached the ceiling height bookshelves I was relieved to see that my cloth bound books were safe. They’re in a closed network, just me and the writer. There were about a thousand writers on those shadowed shelves in their beautifully washed-out cloth covers. The writers’ lives extended out over centuries and continents in an complex and unique combination of creative intelligences that only I could have devised. Because of all the libraries in the world, no library looks just like mine, just like no library looks just like yours. And I thought of all the libraries all over the world that night, none of which looked exactly like mine, each with it’s unique take on the human adventure. And I wanted to protect them all.
The Victorians were completely obsessed with death and mourning, and so even at Christmas, with all its emphasis on family, gift-giving, religion, etc., there was still this dark undercurrent. So holiday music for me is always a slightly moody affair, particularly since I don’t have too much use for the awful crap that gets blasted in malls and coffee shops this time of year.
I was confused that this pair were meeting at a train station to go off together when they barely seemed to know each other. What a great tease. Trevor also signals that they are in different social classes. The da Tanka woman tries to repress her “chirpiness” and Trevor remarks that her clothes are expensive. She’s upper middle class or pretending to be. Mileson seems as well worn as year-old newspaper, lower middle. These distinctions break into open class warfare at the end of the story.
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