Read The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction by Henry James R.W.B. Lewis Online


To read a story by Henry James is to enter a fully realized world unlike any other—a rich, perfectly crafted domain of vivid language and splendid, complex characters. Devious children, sparring lovers, capricious American girls, obtuse bachelors, sibylline spinsters, and charming Europeans populate these five fascinating nouvelles, which represent the author in both his eTo read a story by Henry James is to enter a fully realized world unlike any other—a rich, perfectly crafted domain of vivid language and splendid, complex characters. Devious children, sparring lovers, capricious American girls, obtuse bachelors, sibylline spinsters, and charming Europeans populate these five fascinating nouvelles, which represent the author in both his early and late phases. From the apparitions of evil that haunt the governess in “The Turn of the Screw” to the startling self-scrutiny of an egotistical man in “The Beast in the Jungle,” the mysterious turnings of human behavior are coolly and masterfully observed—proving Henry James to be a master of psychological insight as well as one of the finest prose stylists of modern English literature.Includes “The Turn of the Screw” • Daisy Miller • Washington Square • “The Beast in the Jungle” • “The Jolly Corner”...

Title : The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction
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ISBN : 9780553210590
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Number of Pages : 527 Pages
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The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction Reviews

  • Michael Fierce
    2019-04-24 16:16

    Because I have been a huge fan of several film versions, I had been wanting to read this for a few decades now and have owned the book for many years. I never did care for the particular cover edition I own and that may have been why I waited so long to finally read it.Originally published in October of 1898 it is written in a high prose and has become one of the most memorable ghost stories ever published, and a fine example of classic literature.The Turn of the Screw is about a woman known as the governess, hired on to take care of two orphans, Miles and Flora, who turn out to be very different than could ever be expected.The boy, Miles, attends a boarding school, while his younger sister, Flora, lives at a summer country house in Essex, known as Bly. She and the estate had been currently cared for by the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose. Miles and Flora's uncle, upon hiring, gives the governess full charge of the children insisting that she not bother him with communications of any sort, and to take control of raising the children, including all responsibility of governing the spooky estate.This leads her on what she thinks in going to be a dream-come-true adventure, but is in all seriousness, a true living nightmare.The ghosts that come into play is the great mystery here so I won't say much about them. I can say that the characters and storyline infused some very dark imagery in my mind that was truly unforgettable.The connection between the governess and the two children, Miles and Flora, is as frightening as it is endearing.The ending is chilling, confusing and heartrending. *Many argue that The Turn of the Screw isn't a ghost story at all. I could list several reasons why I believe it is. But I think that would ruin it for anyone reading this review, and many would dispute my reasoning anyway, regardless of what I'd have to say about it.Something you DO need to know before you read this: This side of Shakespeare or The Bible, it is just about THE stuffiest writing I have ever read in my life! I don't think there would be any argument that Henry James must have worn the stuffiest shirt in existence! However, many have said that he was a most agreeable chap, one quote by him even stating how important it is to be kind.I've always enjoyed older antiquarian fiction, especially Victorian ghost stories, and Gothic tales, and a lot of it is because of the language and the writing. However, even though it is only about 100 pages long, it took me nearly 70 to completely relax and get into the writing style. Though I did enjoy it, I am not a fan of his style and feel it overshadows what is otherwise an incredible story.If you plan on reading this, I suggest you do so fully rested and with a clear head. If you don't, I think you will find yourself re-reading sentences over and over again, and not liking it one bit.Though I've given it a pretty high rating of 4 stars this is one of those few, rare examples I have a complete understanding of why people hated it, even those who gave it only 1 star (Karen, I'm thinking of you! Damn, your review made me hella laugh though!) --NO DOUBT THIS BOOK CAN BE VERY DIFFICULT TO ENJOY.**BUT, JUST IN CASE IT IS NOT CLEAR, I LIKED IT VERY MUCH!I believe almost all of the film versions are maybe even more enjoyable than the novella. To see this storyline unfold on the screen is a captivating experience. The best version is The Innocents directed by Jack Clayton with stark black and white imagery filmed by cinematographer Freddie Francis, the governess played by the wonderful, Deborah Kerr. The children in this adaptation are perfectly cast as well and really do seem to be brother and sister, having similar facial features and expressions. Other fine though very different versions are the enjoyable, intricate The Turn of the Screw (1974) directed by Dan Curtis, starring Lynn Redgrave, the bizarre, sometimes surreal, and seemingly unrelated to the source material, version called Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) directed by Jacques Rivette, the very strange Argentinian Otra vuelta de tuerca (1985), the mostly inferior The Turn of the Screw (1992) starring Patsy Kensit, the mostly laughable disguised version called,The Haunting of Helen Walker (1995) starring Valerie Bertinelli(!), the watchable, mostly enjoyable PBS production, The Turn of the Screw (1999) starring Caroline Pegg, the uncle played by Colin Firth, the almost decent but shoddy Presence of Mind (1999) with a cast that includes Sadie Frost, Lauren Bacall, Harvey Keitel & Jude Law, the watchable but low budget, Ghost Story: The Turn of the Screw (2009) starring nobody you probably know, Michelle Dockery, and two eerie looking kids. There's also at least one musical version, an opera, of which I've never seen.***Recommended to those who love Victorian Ghost Stories and Gothic tales!

  • John Guild
    2019-04-21 13:03

    Henry James is an undeniable pain-in-the-ass to read. The sentences just meander along, picking up extra clauses like lint and dander, until they become so fluffy you can barely identify their original shape. Syntactically speaking, he is hard work, harder than Conrad, and about as hard as Proust.But he is great. This is an unbelievable work of fiction--one of the best horror stories in the English language. It is loaded with meaning, yet it is deliciously ambiguous. You could spend months arguing over what actually happens. Bottom line: a lot of work, but totally worth the effort.

  • Teresa
    2019-04-14 13:20

    Also includes "Washington Square," "Daisy Miller," "The Beast in the Jungle," and "The Jolly Corner" -- all 5 star stories.

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-23 08:29

    30. Turn of the Screw by Henry JamesThis story, for me, was like a recipe that required me to chop a lot of vegetables before I could start cooking. In the end, I immensely enjoyed this psychologically driven suspense story. The story centers around a governess who is newly employed to a lonely house with several other servants and two beautiful children, Flora and Miles. Their uncle is the guardian and he stays off premises in London. Right away, the governess begins to see strange, "unnatural" things. It starts with what she initially perceives as a flash of light. It progresses to the point where the governess deduces that the two former deceased employees who were inappropriately and secretly in love return regularly to visit Flora and Miles. The governess also senses that the children are aware of the unnatural visitors and have schemed to keep it from her, their teacher and authority.This story can be read many different ways, making it all the more delicious and rich. The shocking ending and the period of which James wrote leads me to believe that he authored our watchful governess to have been quietly and unknowingly going mad in that house. She, alone, saw what she saw with no confirmation from other central characters like Miles, Flora and Mrs. Grose. The governess lives to tell the story, but tells it years and years later as if time has not altered her notion one bit. All in all, if you are a patient and careful reader who enjoys psychological stories, this one is a winner.

  • Chloe
    2019-04-03 13:23

    Painful. Just painful. Sentences that turn into multi-page epics that leave me wondering whether James' typewriter may have been malfunctioning so he just made do with commas instead. Only a 20-30 pages in to Turn of the Screw and I'm really trying hard not to put it down in disgust. I have to keep repeating my mantra to myself: "They are classics for a reason. They are classics for a reason." Someone liked them enough for them to stay in print this long, I just have to find out what gripped their imagination so. Perhaps they're a cure for insomnia...

  • Ben Goodridge
    2019-04-01 09:14

    Gentlemen, behold: a book I was unwilling to finish, and don't plan on finishing.I never really planned on finishing it. I just bought it for its lead story. "The Turn of the Screw" is an archetype for gothic ghost stories, and cements the trope of the unreliable narrator. In April, however, I got hold of an audiobook copy of "Washington Square," which I reviewed elsewhere thus:"It is incandescently boring. It's so boring that it kind of swings all the way around to become interesting again. What should be a uniquely American novel of latter-19th century New York manners reads far too much like a Regency-era class conflict...This is not a new observation. It annoyed Henry James even in his own time to be compared to Jane Austen, but after reading 'Pride and Prejudice' last year, I couldn't escape the idea that I was reading a novel out of its era."So, I wondered, as I hacked my way through the tangled jungle of Henry James's tortured syntax, who exactly would find a book written in such a style appealing?It reminded me of the struggles I had in college with other boring books. Just because I had to read 'em didn't mean I had to like 'em; no, I didn't like "Sister Carrie," or "House of Mirth," or "Tess of the bloody D'urbevilles," books I had never encountered outside of a classroom.Conversely, more positive reviews of "Turn of the Screw" tend to use phrases like "If you can get past the archaic language," as if the thick style was just an artifact of that hoary bygone era of 1898. You don't have to go far to realize that the writing style is not a product of its time, but a product of its author. Arthur Conan Doyle doesn't trowel it on that thick. Nor does Rudyard Kipling. Or HG Wells or Jules Verne or Ambrose Bierce or Arthur Machen or Henrik Ibsen or even Oscar Wilde, from whom one might expect it. The clue to the continuing appeal of these books lies in their similarity to those hated University texts: this is exactly the sort of book an academic would like. Beyond the turgid style is a whole lesson plan in modern critical theory. The syllabus practically writes itself. I can think of five different position papers on the spot. I'm certain that Henry James survives in the literary canon not because people enjoy sitting down and reading "Portrait of a Lady" of a slow Sunday afternoon, but because of outsized academic interest. It's not entirely without merit - there IS a hell of a ghost story somewhere under all the curlicues and gingerbread - but it's a story that could easily have been told in about seven thousand words. I'll give it three stars on condition that I never have to pick up another Henry James story again.

  • 1.1
    2019-04-16 15:04

    'It was agreeable, it was delightful, it was miserable.' It was really tough to read, there were no pictures, and it wasn't particularly lively or action-packed. Excuses within excuses. Literature requires tougher stuff, and there's no point in getting offended because sensibilities have changed. So, yes, these stories don't translate well into the contemporary appetite, but James' craft is so apparent that it shouldn't matter. It can be a struggle to read pages so dense with prose, but in the end it calls to mind another epoch and a different style of writing that (still had the option to) politely invite the reader into its intrigues, instead of screaming brazenly for a large market of readers.I finished 'The Turn of the Screw' despite myself and had to admit it was well-crafted, suitably chilling, and also a product of its time. James' approach is incredibly dated and nothing in this volume qualifies as a 'short story'. Instead there are some novellas as deep and as fast-paced as glaciers. I sincerely doubt I will ever read 'Washington Square' again, not because it is disagreeable but because it is miserable. This is a story that should be taught to prospective lit majors, because it will weed out the charlatans as surely as medieval poetry. It is of course a perfectly functional story but it is lengthy and, what we can say now with the certainty of evolved tastes, 'stale'.'The Beast in the Jungle' was, more or less, tied with 'The Turn of the Screw' in my mind for the best story. 'The Jolly Corner' was also quite good, and probably the most palatable for modern readers as it has an edge of fantasy that bored and/or disinterested readers might ignore in other stories. Would recommend this book to patient, careful readers and, somewhat maliciously, to young upstarts who think they will become writers.

  • Daniel
    2019-04-03 10:28

    I put this collection down with the sense that its affect - which I may or may not be aware of in these days to come - will extend well into the future. Reading these stories was a joy for the act itself. James' prose is full and deep and intelligent, and I had to pay close attention to the rhythm and direction of his long, frequently-punctuated sentences to follow its intent. With this language, James constructs the inner world and thoughts of his characters and their societies, and traces the eruptions and tremors that take place when two people meet and converse and convene. Beyond these meetings, little happens in the stories - and, because James was so skilled at rendering the human interior in prose, little is lacking. These stories are about people and their social agonies, and they are profound.Writing these impressions now, what is most remarkable is that James' narrative represents a part of human living in a way that is purely literary: what he does in these stories can only be done, in this way in particular, in literature - not in film or photo or game - and it is for this kind of accomplishment that literature is such a splendid treasure.

  • Ginger
    2019-04-10 11:17

    Once you can get your mind wrapped around the old language, this book leads you into a story that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. It holds mystery as you are forced to acknowledge weather the nanny is actually crazy or is actually seeing ghosts.The style may be 'old' but the story will live on forever.

  • Ivonne Rovira
    2019-04-10 12:16

    I loved the ambiguity of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw: Is the unnamed Governess an astute guardian of children under peril from supernatural forces? Or is she a neurotic who sees phantoms that merely manifestations of her own madness?I've taught this novel this year for the first time, but it won't be the last.

  • Jacques Coulardeau
    2019-03-29 09:12

    The first element to clear up is the date of publication. Henry James could not at that time when he wrote this strongly anti-gay, as we would say today, novella using ghosts to create tension ignore Oscar Wilde’s Ghost of Canterville in which Oscar Wilde in 1887 makes fun of Americans who believe in ghosts so much that they can shoot peas with peashooters at them, up to the final peace agreement the Americans negotiate with that ghost. Henry James takes quite a serious approach towards the two ghosts of his story, meaning it is not any device to frighten the readers, but a dramatic element in the story without which it does not work.He could not either ignore the situation in England, where he situates the action, at the time since Oscar Wilde was sentenced to a two year prison term for his gay sexuality with young men if not teenagers. Note at the time the age was not at stake, only the orientation. The sentence was implemented from 1895 to 1897. Then Oscar Wilde moved to Paris where he died in 1900. Since Henry James situates his story in England he had to take into account the real paranoia about any gay orientation, though if Oscar Wilde had not “seduced” (and that seduction was long lasting for the “ victim”) the son of a Lord, himself to become a Lord, he might very well have gone through without even a trial or a fine. That conception of society divided into upper tiers that have to remain cut off from any intimate relation with all other middle or lower social tiers is absolutely dominant at the time in England. And we must keep in mind the subject was so pregnant that it will be the core of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928, censored in England up to 1960), and it was a core element in the recent TV series Downton Abbey, whose action is situated in the 1910s and 1920s. Henry James’ novella can only be understood in his time within that social and sexual context.But in the 21st century a critic has to be more creative, though some are sticking to the old approach.This old approach only takes into account two basic interpretations with a mongrelized third one. The first one is that the two ghosts, Quint and Miss Jessel, are real and we have a real ghost story that obviously has not read Oscar Wilde, but today that kind of story does not work, except for teenagers (and young ones at that) on television. The second interpretation is that the governess (who does not have a name, and that cannot be gratuitous) suffers from hallucinations and is misled by her own possessive and protective, we could say extreme maternal, desires. The third interpretation is a little bit of each of the first two because Henry James tries to be non-committed on the dual choice. But one thing is sure for all such critics: the two ghosts tried to sexually possess, and might even have succeeded, at least in the case of the boy and Quint, the two children who are at the time of these events seven for the girl and nine for the boy. The story told by the new governess takes place when they are respectively eight and ten. I personally have not found one element that is clear about Flora or Miles having intercourse of any type with Miss Jessel and QuintI would like to insist here on what is a shortcoming of the novella itself, the fact that Henry James does not really examine and scrutinize the psychological situation of the two kids, and then I will try to explore a modern interpretation of the anonymous governess.The shortcoming is why and how the two kids end up in an isolated country mansion of an upper class London man who is a bachelor and the uncle of the kids. This story that is underused is essential to evaluate the children.They lost their parents in India two years ago when the new governess arrives. They were uprooted from India then and entrusted to their upper class uncle in London who is a bachelor and uses the services of a valet who apparently wears some clothes of his master, which is frowned upon by the new governess when she is told but perfectly tolerated by the master. This proves nothing as for sexual orientation, but it does show something about the social orientation of this uncle, though his not wanting the two kids in his London home seems to show he does not want to be bothered by them and/or he wants to protect them from his own life style which is not specified in orientation, sexual or social likewise. So after losing their parents and being uprooted from India the are uprooted from their uncle’s London home and sent to live with quite a few servants in a countryside mansion of their uncle’s, a mansion that is composite: old sections from a several century old structure that looks medieval (crenellated towers) and a more modern structure in-between, meaning from the 19th century, or maybe the end of the 18th century.This second uprooting sets the kids under the responsibility of two people, with servants around, including a housekeeper: a governess, Miss Jessel, and the uncle’s valet, Quint. Miss Jessel is responsible for the education of the kids and particularly of the young girl, whereas Quint is responsible for the upbringing of the young boy. The novella insinuates that the two kids developed very intimate (in time, which is the only parameter that is specified) relations, Miss Jessel with the girl Flora, and Quint with the boy Miles, often referred to as Mr. Miles. The intimate relations can easily be explained by the trauma of the loss of the parents and the double trauma of the double uprooting. There is absolutely no element that implies this intimacy is sexual, hence pedophile.But for a reason that is called a scandal, with once again no specification, Miss Jessel has to go home, that is to say she is fired. There is some innuendo about the scandal but we cannot say if Miss Jessel, a governess who has to be young and pure, hence unmarried and virginal, did something unacceptable with Quint or anyone else. The novella seems to imply she did not do anything with the kids and at the end Miles clearly says he did not do anything bad with her. So we have to come to the idea she had a relation with Quint. And she dies soon after leaving for a cause we are not told. Soon after, Quint dies accidentally though without any detail. The two kids find themselves in another traumatic situation and Flora is temporarily taken care of by Mrs. Grose, the Housekeeper, who must be married but at the same time no husband is attributed to her, and Miles is sent to a boarding school. This situation is of course another trauma for the two kids who are separated and the boy sent to a boarding school which is not the best place for a traumatized child. No surprise when we learn at the end that he told things (which are not specified) to some of his “friends” there and these friends told these things to others including the teaching personnel, which explains the fact Miles is sent back home for the summer but with a letter telling his guardian he will not be taken again in the Fall.What is missing here is the PTSS or PTSD that has to have developed in the two kids. Their Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or Disorder must have been extremely high due to the successive traumas and uprootings they experienced at a very young age: between 6 and 8 for Flora and 8 and 10 for Miles. In fact it is this PTSS/D that could explain the final episodes of Flora refusing to see the governess again after a final ghost event with Miss Jessel, and then the death of Miles after another and final ghost event with Quint. The two kids are literally haunted by these ghosts that are only seen by the governess and that she imposes onto them in what must be considered as psychological if not even psychiatric torture: bringing up the last two people with whom they had some intimate equilibrium, hence maybe peace in their traumatic situations. And this governess is more than simply agitating the ghosts: she tries to force the kids, Flora first and Quint second, to admit they had a “bad” relation with the two ghosts when they were alive, which amounts to depriving the children of the recollection they may have kept of the two people who have been taken away by death after obscure circumstances, which had to reactivate the death of their own parents. The governess does not understand that and yet Henry James does not exploit it, so that the final position of Flora rejecting the governess and the final death of Miles remain unexplained. Miles does not die of fear, but he dies because that is the only way the governess leaves him to keep in contact with the last man he has had some intimate and balanced, maybe happy, relation with.But the novella must be interpreted by critics with modern resources.Henry James is telling the story in which a male character is bringing up the notebook of the nameless governess in which she tells what happened to her when in charge of Flora and Miles in the countryside mansion in Bly. In other words Henry James provides us with a personal diary by a character he invents and constructs but he constructs her only with her own words which have to be analyzed psychologically, socially and even from a non-clinical psychiatric point of view. This anonymous governess speaking in the first person is suffering of an extremely serious psychiatric disorder that has to be identified from what she says herself. Everything being fiction told by Henry James.Her extremely strict and violent opposition to any sexual relation between Flora and Miss Jessel or between Miles and Quint, motivated both sexually and socially, reveals on her side a sexual and social heritage that is not dealt with except with a couple of allusion to her own brothers and sisters that lead nowhere.The fact that she is a lot more motivated in her hostility by Miles and Quint than by Flora and Miss Jessel, shows she develops a sort of jealousy that would be purely pedagogical if equal on the two kids, but that is a lot more intricate and intimate since it is essentially directed towards the boy. She takes a stronger anti-gay position with Miles than with Flora. I say anti-gay and not anti-pedophile because she insists on the social dimension of the crime: Quint is behaving towards Miles not as a subservient servant but as something like an equal who can even wear his own master’s clothes, Miles’ uncle’s clothes. But what reveals the very obscure motivations of the governess is first the strong protective attitude: as such she is maternal. But second it is excessively physical and cuddling, hugging, embracing and kissing, including when Miles is in bed and she is sitting on his bed are impulsive, vast in time and repetitive. We are beyond anything that is normal for an adult woman and a ten year old boy who clearly asks her to leave him alone. She is obviously in love with the child and her desire is intimate though in her consciousness not sexual, but she does not see that all the hugging, embracing, cuddling, kissing, etc., is sexual and cannot be anything but sexual for a ten year old boy who must be starting to feel some desires and has spend one term in a boarding school with other boys and who longs for going back to be with boys because he wants to be a man. He uses this argument to build some distance with the governess who does not seem to understand. In other words her attitude is sexually motivated, even if unconsciously for the governess, is sexually received and interpreted and this time not unconsciously at all for Miles though it is for the governess, and is experienced as a frustration at least, in fact a castration, and this is conscious for Miles though unconscious for the governess. But why does she condemn that intimacy with Quint and not with herself? The rejection of such gay relationship is clearly a way for her to hide and keep under control her own impulses. The rejection is typical of her time. It is also a way to cathartically sublimate and desexualize her own impulses. But this catharsis should also bring her to the point where she should step back and let Miles be, and obviously it does not work like that, which means her impulses are deeply rooted in her unconscious and her impulses are both pedophile and incestuous since she assumes the protective maternal stance of a quasi-mother, of a mother substitute in a situation of total absence of the real mother. If then we associate the PTSS/D of the children to this falsely cathartic incestuous and pedophile impulse of the governess along with her extreme and excessive rejection of any gay or social mixing for the children we have to come to the conclusion that this attitude is completely castrating for Miles to the point he can only think of one escape to rejoin the last man with whom he had a relation, Quint. Since Quint is dead, though he does not see his ghost, he has to die to be with him again. Then the very end is clear when Miles “admits” his relation with Quint. Under duress more than simple pressure Miles admits he is seeing a vision of someone. The governess imagine it is a “she,” thinking of Miss Jessel. Miles answer curtly: “It’s he?” At this moment the governess becomes a torturer that only works (and that was her main characteristic all along) on what she conjures up from what she considers as signs though they are never confirmed by real words from anyone. Here is that imperial attitude: “I was so determined to have all my proof that I flashed into ice to challenge him. “Whom do you mean by ‘he’?” And Miles’ answer is not an answer to her but to himself, to the vision he has in his mind of the only possibility he has to escape that dragon of a governess: “Peter Quint—you devil!” And of course she does not understand he is talking to Quint in his mind, not the ghost she sees at this moment, but the real memory of the intimacy he had with Squint, an intimacy that implies no sexual relation, but only a friendly and socially uneven but accepted relation. She at once sees meaning where there is nothing: “His face gave again, round the room, its convulsed supplication. “Where?” [says Miles of course] And her conclusion is fatal, lethal. It is the last thread she cuts. She finally lets him go to Quint, but not the ghost, though she does not know. “They are in my ears still, his supreme surrender of the name and his tribute to my devotion.”And yet this harpy of a woman has to push even further: “What does he matter now, my own?—what will he ever matter? I have you,” I launched at the beast, “but he has lost you for ever!” Then, for the demonstration of my work, “There, there!” I said to Miles.” For her the ghost is real and can be positioned in real space, the competition is won and she strikes the last two blows to Miles. In other words her deranged sexual and emotional impulses lead her to a crime, a murder, she commits with only words and she triumphs just before discovering her murder because she thinks she has Miles to herself forever.So, to conclude, this ghost story has little to do with ghosts being real or hallucinations. It is a deep story about a fully repressed and perverted woman who is so haunted by her own sexual impulses which she tries to control by her absolute rejection of anything sexual that she invents ghosts and fantasized relations between the children she is supposed to take care of and the ghosts she imagines. This enters in conflict with the PTSS/D of the children, though insufficiently developed by Henry James, so that Flora rejects her totally and Miles dies to escape the mental castrating prison in which she tries to lock him up.We can hardly reproach Henry James with not knowing what we know today but we definitely have to reproach critics with not going beyond the manipulation Henry James works on us. Think for example of the name of the valet, Quint, meaning “five.” Thus Quint is the pentacle, the devil in simple symbols and then the last words addressed to Quint by Miles are “you devil!” This name then becomes friendly from Miles who is going to stop his heart to rejoin Quint. But what a manipulation in which the nameless governess falls head first! Apparently many critics have fallen into it too. I am of course here only speaking of what has been written on Henry James’ novella that was adapted to the cinema, television, ballet and the opera, not to speak of theater.What surprises me most is why critic as so reluctant at identifying incestuous and pedophile impulses in women. And we do know they exist.Dr Jacques COULARDEAU

  • Kyle
    2019-04-04 08:12

    Okay let's take these bad boys one by one! Alert! Spoilers Ahead! I'm even going to spoil The Portrait of a Lady. In fact, if you ever plan on reading any Henry James and don't want anything spoiled you should just skip this. The Turn of the Screw - I'd like to talk about a few things here. First, if you take the Governess' story at face value then this is a pretty standard ghost story. However, if you start thinking about the possibility that perhaps the Governess is completely off her rocker and the ghosts are only in her head.... well the story becomes so much more compelling. From my brief research into the matter it seems that James meant this to be a conventional ghost story (i.e. we should accept the Governess' story). But you know what? History is filled with examples of the audience changing the meaning of a work of art (see this story about Pearl Jam's Alive) and I think in this case it's for the better. The Governess is crazy and she killed Miles! That's my story and I'm sticking to it.Second, I have fallen in love with the way Henry James uses the word everything. Just a simple word right? Well take a look at this passage from The Portrait of a Lady when Isabel realizes that Madame Merle worked to arrange her to marry Osmond.:“Who are you—what are you??” Isabel murmured. “What do you have to do with my husband?” It was strange that for the moment she drew as near to him as if she had loved him.“Ah then, you take it heroically! I’m very sorry. Don’t think, however, that I shall do so.”“What have you to do with me?” Isabel went on.Madame Merle slowly got up, stroking her muff, but not removing her eyes from Isabel’s face. “Everything!” she answered. Boom! Insta-goosebumps! With that one word Isabel's world comes crashing down! Okay back to The Turn of the Screw, when the Governess confronts Mrs. Grose on the relationship between Peter Quint and Miss Jessel“I must have it now. Of what did she die? Come, there was something between them.”“There was everything.”Boom again! This story was written in 1898 so James can't just have Mrs Grose say "Quint and Jessel were totally banging". Except he did just that with one simple word.Washington Square It's a long meandering journey to get to the end of this story, but the build-up is worth it for one of the most depressing endings I have ever read. That's right! It's so depressing it is awesome. To sum up: Guy is a lazy bum. Guy wants to marry a Girl because the Girl has a rich Dad. Dad didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday and catches on to the Guy. Dad threatens to disown Girl if she marries Guy. Guy dumps Girl. Dad dies. Guy comes back and Girl rightfully rejects the Guy. And then this happens:Catherine, meanwhile, in the parlour, picking up her morsel of fancy-work, had seated herself with it again -- for life as it were. Wow! Poor Catherine, having realized how wrong she was about the man she loved, will now spend the rest of her life (and she probably has another 30-40 years) sitting in the parlour knitting. I have tried to think of a fate more depressing that that but I'm really drawing a blank here.Also, great quote by the Dad about his life's work:“This purpose had not been preponderantly to make money--it had been rather to learn something and to do something. To learn something interesting, and to do something useful--this was, roughly speaking, the programme he had sketched, and of which the accident of his wife having an income appeared to him in no degree to modify the validity.” I think that's a good life goal. Learn something interesting and do something useful. Daisy Miller: A Study You can probably make a pretty decent comparison between Isabel Archer and Daisy (naive American young lady makes mistakes in Europe) but at least Isabel has some depth. Maybe it's because we spend so much time in Isabel's head while none in Daisy's but poor Daisy comes across as hopelessly flighty and you can't do anything but shake your head when she ends up dead from a late night visit to the Colosseum with her Italian boyfriend. Of course one would probably rather be dead than have to live with Gilbert Osmond. Maybe Daisy was smarter than I thought. The Beast in the Jungle Really great stuff here. It's so powerful when March finally realizes he has wasted his entire life and flings himself on May Bartram's tomb. And really, it's even more powerful because you have to think James sees himself in the narrator. I wish I could go back in time and play some Pink for James. That's right. Instead of killing Hitler I would make Henry James listen to Pink's Try:Where there is desire there is gonna be a flame. Where there is a flame someone's bound to get burned. But just because it burns doesn't mean you're gonna die. You gotta get up and try.But beyond that, May Bartram really could have thrown poor March a bone don't you think? She really couldn't just once say "HEY DUMBASS! I LOVE YOU! LET'S GET MARRIED AND MAKE BABIES BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!"?The Jolly Corner My least favorite of the bunch, but still really good. Sure it's fiction, but really it's a tale of James coming back to his childhood home, envisioning what his life would have been like had he remained in America, and being absolutely horrified by the results. So yup! Any book that makes you think this much, gives you goosebumps from reading the word "everything", and requires this much text to cover even a miniscule amount of what you want to say gets five stars.

  • Mo
    2019-03-27 16:13

    I know it is a classic, and as such, it probably is best read with a mindset that surrenders to the colloquialisms of the 19th century. That said, I found it pretty hard going. One does not read "just a little light Henry James'. For a tough linguistic brain work-out, that turns out to be a great spooki-ki-ki story, I recommend it.

  • Elise
    2019-04-18 09:18

    Wow, I really could not stand this book. It's not often I say that, but honestly I only bothered to finish reading it out of stubbornness and the fact I had already devoted so many hours to trying to read it. This book contains the stories "Turn of the Screw," "Washington Square," "Daisy Miller," "The Beast in the Jungle," and "The Jolly Corner." Overall, I just couldn't hang with James' writing style. I found his writing to be dense, overly wordy, and dragging. For at least three of the stories, I could barely follow the plot because it just seemed like a spew of words on the page with no real direction. For the stories in which the plots were clear I found them to be rather predictable in outcome and the majority of the stories built through the entire store to one moment of action in the last three paragraphs. Too much set up for so little payoff. Firstly, Turn of the Screw starts the whole thing off. I was excited to read this story knowing that it was considered to be one of the premier and most influential literary ghost stories. I was so immensely disappointed. I would say this story was for me the biggest criminal of the bunch. I could not follow the story line. I couldn't understand the governess' paranoia, and didn't really care. And there was so much buildup, which didn't even seem that harrowing, and then in literally the last half a page there is a major event and then the story abruptly ends. Which was especially strange as the beginning of the story starts with a setup about a group of friends reading the governess' story. Why didn't he return to them? Why include them at all? I was baffled.Washington Square was my favorite of the stories in this book. I thought the characters were more interesting and the writing was a lot more humorous and entertaining. Here my major critique was that the story seemed to rehash the same conversations over and over and over and over again. I get that the story spanned 20+ years, but it was so repetitive.Daisy Miller was probably the second runner up. I liked Daisy because she was awesome and confident, and didn't care what people thought about her. What didn't like about this story was, just as in Turn of the Screw, it felt like a lot of build-up and atmospheric setup for a sudden conclusion. The Beast in the Jungle was an interesting concept, but I feel like the story was twice as long as it needed to be. It's funny because the introduction of the book indicated this was a story to be read twice because on second reading everything would seem more obvious and ironic. I only read it once (I read the introduction afterwards so I wouldn't be spoiled) and it was pretty damn obvious what the main character was being plagued by-- there were so many moments I just wanted to be like, just SAY IT, it's not that mysterious or crazy. And then the ending was strange and slightly incongruous.And lastly there was The Jolly Corner. This is more of a ghost story as well, and like Turn of the Screw I found the writing to be meandering and unclear. And my gosh this story plods on.... the amount of time thinking about going down the stairs made me want to throw my kindle across the room. In fact I was so aggravated by this story I haven't even finished it yet, instead I got on Goodreads to get out all of my feels about this book. Anyway, wow. I don't think I've disliked a book this much in a long time. I really thought going into this reading I would like or at the minimum appreciate a work of classic literature, but I was so very wrong. And as a disclaimer-- I do read classic literature, I love some of the writing from this time period, but me and Henry James, we just do not mesh.

  • Chadwick Saxelid
    2019-04-17 12:30

    At least once every year I try to take a break from my genre and pulp reading preferences and read some of the classics. This year I read The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction, by Henry James.Since my reading preferences lean toward the arena of the fantastic and otherworldly, it is not at all surprising that I would choose James's famous "ghost story" The Turn of the Screw as an entry point (or re-entry point, since I did read some James during my years at San Francisco State University) to his rather challenging body of work. What can be considered surprising is that, when I finished the book, I considered The Turn of the Screw to be one of my least favorite Henry James stories. I prefer the longer, funnier, and sadder Washington Square.What makes the writing of Henry James so challenging, and notorious, is its intense (to the point of almost being impenetrable) narrative density. It is that density that makes James such a maligned and dreaded literary figure in English courses. James's long, convoluted sentences and his intricately constructed descriptive passages can take what feels like pages and pages to reveal information or to paint visual images that could have been constructed in half the space that James takes. This density demands a close and attentive reading, of course. It is impossible to ever "skim" the work of Henry James, because he forces the reader to stroll leisurely through his tale. He makes the reader pause and savor each and every subtle nuance in his narrative. While this will no doubt frustrate many a contemporary, post-Hemingway and/or minimalist literature spoiled reader. Those that are looking for an exquisitely textured tale that can be slowly savored, like that of a fine wine, will find much to enjoy in the work of Henry James.What a great many readers (and students forced to read Henry James for a course) that cannot stand Henry James (and I speak of those that call his work boring, or denounce his taking forever to tell a simple tale) do not seem to realize is that all of the texture, detail, and nuance that James slathers across his tale serves an important purpose. All of the aforementioned details not only create an extremely detailed world, they also create rich and psychologically complex charaters. Characters that, by the tale's end, seem to be flesh and blood human beings. I think that is the reason why I prefer the tragicomedy Washington Square over the psychological thriller The Turn of the Screw. I will even go so far as to say that I felt the very real psychological abuse that the mean-spirited (but ironically well meaning) Dr. Sloper inflicts upon his daughter, the long suffering Catherine, far more terrifying than the imaginary horrors that the Governess inflicts upon herself in Screw.My recommendation for first time readers is to sample Daisy Miller: A Study, first. If, after you finish Miller, you want to read more James, then read Square and Screw. But I can only recommend that last two tales in the anthology, The Beast in the Jungle and The Jolly Corner, to the most studious of readers. Although these two are the shortest tales in the collection, they are also the most narratively dense and, I thought, the most frustrating to read. Although why neither The Beast in the Jungle or The Jolly Corner were never adapted for The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery is beyond me. They are perfect for either show.

  • Arlene
    2019-04-04 16:30

    This Henry James collection is a strong survey of his wit, the time and different countries James lived in, and of a spectrum of the sum total of the stories he told.I may have given this collection five stars out of enthusiasm for his talents and my inexperience reading him (this is the first James I have read). Yes, let's just say that is indeed what I did. I'll own that.If you are looking for a collection in which you can get lost in the details and become absorbed by another time and far off places (if you do not split living your year between Europe and Manhattan) then this book is for you.This collection demonstrates James' talent at thoroughly captivating the reader in a fictional world. He is a master of the ethereal, refined, but human, fragile story. This collection demonstrates that. Characters are of a lofty social strata, perhaps, but always easily related to. Characters are proper but pained, present but haunted, or perhaps wealthy but lost in a world other than the one in which the wealth might be enjoyed.James is gifted at detail and at providing an interesting plot. Many of his contemporary writers, at that time, wrote serials and as such (today) when we read Collins, for example, the book reads like a prolonged story because, well, that is what it was when it was published - weekly installments. James left us whole stories intended to be read at a sitting or two rather than over the course of many weeks.Enjoyable and unique (even in his own lifetime), compelling but not cliche', and intelligent but not without humor - I recommend this Henry James collection.

  • Ellen Pierson
    2019-04-22 09:02

    There was an article in the New York Times a few months ago about how no one could go to the trouble to read Henry James any more. I enjoyed Daisy Miller so I decided I’d have to read some more James and see what I thought. Also for some reason the library in Nîmes has a substantial collection of his work. Anyway I didn’t like The Turn of the Screw quite as much because it wasn’t really a statement on a certain echelon of nineteenth century society the way Daisy Miller was, but I still found it to be quite readable and even fun. It was actually a pretty standard ghost story, featuring mysteriously ominous figures from times gone by and of course creepy little children. James does a really great job of building suspense and tension throughout the story, but the ending is kind of abrupt and not really satisfying. Then again I suppose you could say that ghost stories that do explain everything are just a cop-out to our desire to have everything neatly accounted for. I think maybe the article I referenced was suggesting that it’s the language and not the content that makes James unsuitable for today’s world, but I think he’s worth reading if only for the language. I’m unable to articulate exactly what it is about it amuses me so much, but somehow i always find nineteenth century dialogue kind of funny. Of course there are also a lot of great words that you don't see everyday.

  • Adrian
    2019-04-05 15:17

    There's a lot going on in the ideas or themes of the stories here that makes them worth reading. But the basic fact of the matter is that Henry James just is not a good writer. Yeah, yeah, it's Henry James, but if something could be written clearly in 100 words, James helps himself to 800. It's the type of turgid stew where an "it" will refer to some vague abstraction of a feeling mentioned so far back that the original reference can longer be found. Paragraphs span three pages. There's not a shred of humor anywhere in it, although I'm sure there exist crones out there somewhere who will get all sniffy and pissy towards anyone not refined enough to grasp all the amusing bon mots here. And I realize it was written in a different era, but what other writer from the same era--whose works are still read today--has prose this turgid? It's to reading what stepping into wet concrete is to jogging.It also can be difficult to empathize with characters who live off their inheritance, have no jobs or any responsibilities whatsoever, and out of sheer boredom with their own self-absorption start to imagine ghosts and whatnot.I'll probably end up reading some of these stories again in 10 years. Maybe I'm just a masochist.

  • Tom
    2019-04-23 10:23

    The entire book hinges on the big reveal that the governess is the only one to see the ghosts, which means that they are only a figment of her imagination. This would be an acceptable way to demonstrate the unreliability of the narrator if it wasn't for the fact that there is no rule about ghosts which says they either appear to everyone or no one. In fact, several well known ghost stories feature selective apparition, such as The Sixth Sense and even Hamlet.Because selective apparition of a spirit isn't enough to prove the insanity of the narrator, the book communicates nothing except "greasy guy looks in window" and "dead trollop stands by pond." The only way I was even aware of this diluted plot twist was by eventually breaking down and looking up the wiki page, desperate for some reason to justify my reading of a book so painfully anticlimactic.Basically, it felt like this:Homer: ...and his wife comes through the door!Bart: So?Homer: Did I mention that she was dead?Lisa: No.Homer: Well, she was. And she hit him in the head with a golf-club!Bart: And?Homer: Don't you remember? He went golfing all the time and it really bugged her.Lisa: You said he went bowling!

  • LDB
    2019-04-15 12:25

    This was my first Henry James. He is not the easiest author to read but I did enjoy these stories. I found that if you weren't giving the book your full attention, you would get lost in a sentence and have to read it several times before figuring out exactly what it said. Some of his stories are more convoluted than others. I really enjoyed the first three stories (Turn of the Screw, Washington Square and Daisy Miller). (view spoiler)[For Turn of the Screw, all the discussion I have read of it indicates a mystery as to how the boy actually died. Yet, near the end there is a line that states " well as the positive certitude, by this time, of the child's unconsciousness" after she had been pressing the boy to her chest to protect him from the apparition. She continues debating with the boy, however, and he continues to respond, confirming my belief that all of this was in her mind. (hide spoiler)] I didn't enjoy the last two stories as much (The Beast in the Jungle and The Jolly Corner). They were more inward looking and the writing was more convoluted. Although I did appreciate how they were ways of looking back on a life unlived or wondering what life would have been like with different circumstances or choices.

  • Mary
    2019-03-31 14:02

    This is a tough one to rate because it's five short nouvelles (as James would call them) in one book, and I would argue that they're of varying quality.The best, I believe, is "The Beast in the Jungle"-- I would give that five stars if it were on its own. I would give "Daisy Miller" and maybe "The Jolly Corner" four stars, "The Turn of the Screw" three stars... and then I absolutely hated "Washington Square." "The Jolly Corner" and "The Turn of the Screw" are ghost stories, which makes them especially interesting for this format. Hilariously enough, according to Wikipedia, "'Everybody likes Washington Square, even the denigrators of Henry James', wrote critic Donald Hall[2], and most other commentators have echoed the sentiment. Although James himself regarded the novel with near contempt, readers have enjoyed its linear narrative technique, its straightforward prose (far removed from the convoluted language of James's later career), and the sharply etched portraits of the four main characters. Even the rusty plot revolving around "the will" has charmed many critics with its old-fashioned simplicity."Give me that convoluted language, I guess.

  • Dylan Shaffer
    2019-04-16 08:11

    Meh. I didn't hate it, but as an introduction to Henry James, it wasn't very good. The whole thing just feels very dated: the tropes are very dated (dude reading the whole story from a letter), the language is very Victorian in its syntax and vocabulary. And "The Turn of the Screw" isn't even a good ghost story on its own, the ghosts just stand there and look at the governess. But that's besides the point. I get that James was trying to make things ambiguous by having only the governess ever outright "see" the ghosts, but that only happens in the last thirty pages. Nothing before that led me to doubt the narrator's story or her perspective. Everything that happens is suspicious, so why wouldn't I take the governess's side immediately? The kids act like they're Children of the Corn, and when the governess sees the ghosts, Mrs. Grose confirms her description as being like Quint and Miss Jessel. Maybe James's other stuff is better than this, but even with the problems mentioned, I didn't find the story or characters that interesting, and I probably won't read more James in the future.

  • Gmaharriet
    2019-04-12 16:06

    This was a collection of 5 shortish stories, of which I was only interested in The Turn of the Screw at this time. Written in 1897, it has a very different feel from more modern horror stories such as those written by Stephen King or even Shirley Jackson in the 1950's.*Spoilers ahead* The two spirits, who wish to corrupt the two young, beautiful, brilliant and talented children under the tutelage of a woman who senses the evil and wants to protect them, don't specify in what form this corruption will take. In a modern story we might suspect vampires, devil worship or sexual perversion, but the story gives us no indication of what the spirits want. Therefore, although we are given hints that the spirits are winning, we don't really know just what's at stake or whether there is any danger to other members of the household.I found the story an enjoyable read, but was left with a lot of questions. Even the introduction which discussed James' other work and biographical information didn't clear up very much. So I'd have to say I was disappointed and left feeling a bit foolish...unable to fully understand what I just finished reading.

  • Sarah
    2019-04-19 09:30

    Confession: I read this for two very bad reasons, both self serving. Number one: it's part of the "literary canon" (although I realize that could be objected by many knowledgable folks) that I've never read and in an attempt to make myself feel better about being left out, I picked it up. Number two: "Henry" is one of our many name options for boys and, always wanting to make the literary connection for our kids, this was the Henry I thought most people would immediately think of. On with the title story. Perhaps I wasn't well enough engrossed in the language time to really connect with the book, or perhaps I'm just far too jaded as a modern person to be frightened by the idea of ghosts in a big house. I felt the book missed all the intrigue and suspense of "Rebecca" or "Jane Eyre" by relying on some circuitous female dialogue and, unfortunately, poor character development (in an attempt to be mysterious) to enthrall.Don't read it; even if you're going to name your son, "Henry."

  • Jenny
    2019-04-08 12:30

    This collection contains The Turn of the Screw, Washington Square, Daisy Miller, The Beast in the Jungle, and The Jolly Corner. I didn't find James' writing to be as difficult to read as some have complained, as long as I read it as if the characters were speaking the words. The Turn of the Screw was being written as if the Governess was telling the story aloud, and as such, there are a lot of pauses and fragments. I really enjoyed reading James, though I found that he seemed to have an obsession with peoples' inability to express love or to make committments to each other. The female characters were extremely frustrating, though I tried to tell myself that the culture of the late 1800's/early 1900's was a great deal different than it is now. There was never an author so skilled as James to write an entire story about an object or idea that he never actually names - leaving the reader to wonder, at the conclusion of the story, what the hell he was actually writing about. Despite James' ambiguity, I still enjoyed this collection of short stories, particularly the Turn of the Screw.

  • Neil Crossan
    2019-04-26 13:23

    I suppose if I was in A/P English this is what it would have been like. No Alas Babylon in there. If someone wanted to tell me a story and they started with the first sentence of Turn of The Screw, after the 5 minutes it took them to say it, I would call them an asshole and tell them to shove their ghost story up their ass. Five commas? In the first sentence? Fuck You. Why are you making it so hard to read this story? Now maybe that’s how they wrote ghost stories in 1898, but left face it. If Henry James saw the trailer for Paranormal Activity he’d most likely shit his pants. Now you may think I’m just lashing out because I could only get through a paragraph every 20 minutes and only if I had absolute silence and was alcohol free. And you’d be right, I’m lashing out. This book is way above my reading level, and like most things above my level … I think it sucks. Yeah I’m looking at you PSATs!

  • Matt
    2019-04-02 10:25

    Can't........go........on........any longer. It's dumb for someone like me to criticize a literary classic, but it's not often that I've come across a writer that moves so slooooooooooooooooowly.In 'Turn of the Screw,' any interesting buildup is ultimately followed by a letdown, leading to a confounding and frustrating ending. I know that scholars love to debate the meaning of this psychological thriller, but I don't care enough to wonder. There were moments when I thought it was becoming a truly scary story, but in the end it all deflated. Along the way I became especially sick and tired of reading about the way female characters collapsed-and needed someone to fan them-every time they discovered a new detail about the plight of the orphan children they cared for. Kind of a goofy misogyny.I tried 'The Aspern Papers' as well, but all the signs of the same slowness are there and have me bogged down. I only paid four bucks for this book. I give up.

  • Lindsay
    2019-04-06 11:06

    November/December book club pick. Review is only for The Turn of the Screw.Interesting, but I felt like I was waiting the whole book to find out what happens at the end and it doesn't happen until the last sentence. I also find it difficult to read books where I'm not sure if I can trust the narrator. As far as the debate over whether the ghosts were real or not, I remained skeptical throughout. Although I'm still undecided, it seemed the governess jumped to many conclusions and became quite hysterical at times, making it hard for me to believe her. I was also left curious as to the reaction of the crowd hearing the story. It would have made a nice conclusion. Why set up the whole book as a "round the fireplace" ghost-story session and not wrap it up? Overall, would give it a 2.5 stars if possible.

  • Lauren Fidler
    2019-04-03 08:24

    i'm pretty sure i hated this novella when i read it many, many moons ago as some sort of bored undergrad with preconceived notions about my intelligence and this book's ability to hold a mystery.but not anymore!i love books that are so well-constructed that you have to read them multiple times to get a small hint at what the author is doing. TotS isn't on the level for me with Golding's LOTF, but it's certainly more apt than i initially gave it credit she crazy? are there ghosts? are those the worst behaved children ever? who knows? that's half the fun. personally, i think mrs. grose is trying from the beginning to mess with the governess's head, that the "master" has some sick scheme where he lures lonely poor folk to their early demises with his horrid niece and nephew and his cast of creepy actors. but that's just me.

  • Elizabeth Hernandez
    2019-04-02 08:17

    I learned that I don't like Henry James so much. I say this not to the point of meaning that he is a bad writer, but that he's not a writer who's work interests me in more than short story form. I made it through these short stories, barely, and I learned something 1) some ultimate point in each story 2) that I don't like Henry James. While James has something intereting to say he doesn't just come out and say it, he stretches it out to breaking point with far too many discriptives and metaphors. Some of his seemingly endless picture making are quite lovely, but I sugar is lovley to and still if you have to much one could potentially vomit. James is worth reading, but if you're a "get to the point" person like me, give yourself time, or skip to the end. The point of the stories are of more value than the stories themselves the way James writes them I think.