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Most of my recent posts have derailed into IRL blather, which, while fascinating (to me), is not the point of this journal. So, since I'm embroiled in finals week and have no particular thoughts on literature, I give you someone who did: Henry James!

On experience

It goes without saying that you will not write a good novel unless you possess the sense of reality; but it will be difficult to give you a recipe for calling that sense into being. Humanity is immense, and reality has a myriad forms.... Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue. It is the very atmosphere of the mind; and when the mind is imaginative ... it takes to itself the faintest hints of life, it converts the very pulses of the air into revelations.

The young lady living in a village has only to be a damsel upon whom nothing is lost to make it quite unfair ... to declare to her that she shall have nothing to say about the military.... Imagining assisting, she should speak the truth ...

The power to guess the unseen from the seen, to trace the implication of things, to judge the whole piece by the pattern, the condition of feeling life in general so completely that you are well on your way to knowing any particular corner of it—this cluster of gifts may almost be said to constitute experience, and they occur in country and in town and in the most differing stages of education.

On what a novel is

A novel is a living thing, all one and continuous, like any other organism, and ... in each of the parts there is something of each of the other parts.... There is an old-fashioned distinction between the novel of character and the novel of incident ... What is character but the determination of incident? What is incident but the illustration of character?... It is an incident for a woman to stand up with her hand resting on a table and look out at you in a certain way; or if it be not an incident I think it will be hard to say what it is. At the same time it is an expression of character. If you say you don't see it, this is exactly what the artist who has reason of his own for thinking he does see it undertakes to show you.

On realism

As people feel life, so will they feel the art that is most closely related to it. [I would contest this point except that I'm interpreting this "closely related" to be that immense sensibility of startlingly lifelike experiences, and I think that can happen in sci-fi or fantasy or any genre, because to me it's just a facet of good fiction!] This closeness of relation is what we should never forget in talking of the effort of the novel. Most people speak of it as a factitious, artificial form, a product of ingenuity, the business of which is to alter and arrange the things that surround us, to translation them into conventional, traditional moulds. This, however, is a view of the matter which carries us but a very short way, condemns the art to an eternal repetition of a few familiar clichés, cuts short its development, and leads us straight up a dead wall. Catching the very note and trick, the strange irregular rhythm of life, that is the attempt whose strenuous force keeps Fiction upon her feet.

So that's what is rattling in my head. Weirdly the only thing I can get through of his, fiction-wise, is "The Turn of the Screw" (which is absolutely nuts and I love it). And now I'm back to the coal mines. Okay, I'll probably just watch "Doctor Who."