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"You know as well as you sit there that you'd put a pistol-ball into your brain if you had written my books!"
Exemplifying Henry James's famous belief that "Art makes life," The Lesson of the Master is a piercing study of the life that art makes. When the tale's protagonist—a gifted young writer—meets and befriends a famous author he has long idolized, he is both repelled by and attracted to the artist's great secret: the emotional costs of a life dedicated to art.
With extraordinary psychological insight and devastating wit, the novella asks the question of whether art is, ultimately, demeaning or ennobling for the artist, while capturing the ambiguities of a life devoted to art, and the choices artists must make. The expatriate James knew these choice well by the time he published the novella in the Universal Review in 1888, and the work reveals him at the height of his powers.
The Art of The Novella Series
Too short to be a novel, too long to be a short story, the novella is generally unrecognized by academics and publishers. Nonetheless, it is a form beloved and practiced by literature's greatest writers. In the Art Of The Novella series, Melville House celebrates this renegade art form and its practitioners with titles that are, in many instances, presented in book form for the first time.read more
Henry James was an American author, essayist, and critic known for his contributions to both literary criticism and the realist movement, which focused on presenting everyday life as it actually was. In creating realistic portrayals of life and society, James often included elements of social and political commentary in his works, notably his depiction of the feminist movement in The Bostonians, and the exploration of culture clash between America and Europe in Daisy Miller. James’s best known works also include The Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors, and the novella The Turn of the Screw. American by birth, James spent much of his time in England and eventually moved to London. He became a British subject just before his death in 1916.read more
Reviews for The Lesson of the Master
A young writer, Paul Overt, befriends St. George, a famous master whose later work, while popular, is less artistically strong. Enmeshed in their social dance are St. George’s wife, who it becomes apparent directs the master’s artistic and business life, and Marian Fancourt, a young intellectual beauty who captures Paul’s heart. Revolving around themes of marriage and its effects on the artistic life (anyone care to guess?), The Lesson is a dense, rich novella full of twists and turns. There is a bit of humor here. Particuarlly St. George’s response to Paul’s question of whether the artist is a man - ”I mostly think not.”What the master wishes for the student: “The sense of having done the best – the sense which is the real life of the artist and the absence of which is his death, of having drawn from his intellectual instrument the finest music that nature had hidden in it, of having played it as it should be played.”read more
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