By the 1890s, his own middle years, James was feeling particularly depressed by his lack of a sizeable, responsive audience in what he called 'an age of trash triumphant'. Fiction should be undertaken as an art or not at all. These stories, several of them elaborate Jamesian games, are all concerned with the art of fiction and the position of the artist in society. The Figure in the Carpet, the motif and title story, is an inspired joke, a masterpiece of double-entendre that demands the reader's undivided love and attention and continues to battle its critics.
The stories in this collection were written mostly between 1888 and 1897, a time when Henry James’s writing was concerned with the art of fiction and the position of the artist in society. The motif and title story, ‘The Figure in the Carpet’, is an inspired joke, a masterpiece of double-entendre that demands the reader’s undivided love and attention and continues to baffle its critics. Also included are ‘The Author of Beltraffio’, an absorbing story of family infighting, authorship and tragedy, and ‘The Private Life’, a spirited tale that considers the contrast between the artist alone and at work. While many of these stories appear to be elaborate Jamesian games, all employ irony and humour to allegorize artistic creation.
Henry James (1843-1916) American-born writer, gifted with talents in literature, psychology, and philosophy. James wrote 20 novels, 112 stories, 12 plays and a number of literary criticism. His models were Dickens, Balzac, and Hawthorne.
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