Tag Archives: Discussion

The Art of Fiction

Art lives upon discussion, upon experiment, upon curiosity, upon variety of attempt, upon the exchange of views and the comparison of standpoints; and there is presumption that those times when no one has anything particular to say about,and has no reason to give for practice or preference, though they may be times of honour, are not times of development – are times, possibly even, a little of dullness. the successful application of any art is delightful spectacle, but the theory too is interesting; and though there is a great deal of the later without the former i suspect there has never been a genuine success that has not had a latent core of conviction. Discussion, suggestion, formulation, these are things are fertilizing when they are frank and sincere.

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction” Major Stories and Essays (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1999) 572-573

Art has a foundation of many different aspects, however thy are what make the idea of art a hard concept to understand.

Novels as Impressions of Life and Reflections of Authors

“A novel is in its broadest definition a personal, a direct impression of life: that, to begin with, constitutes its value, which is greater or less according to the intensity of the impression. But there will be no intensity at all, and therefore no value, unless there is freedom to feel and say. The tracing of a line to be followed, of a tone to be taken, of a form to be filled out, is a limitation of that freedom and a suppression of the very thing that we are most curious about. The form, it seems to me, is to be appreciated after the fact: then the author’s choice has been made, his standard has been indicated; then we can follow lines and directions and compare tones and resemblances. Then in a word we can enjoy one of the most charming of pleasures, we can estimate quality, we can apply the test of execution. The execution belongs to the author alone; it is what is most personal to him, and me measure him by that” (James 578).

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction” Major Stories and Essays (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1999), 578.

James expresses the novel’s power as a “direct impression of life”, providing readers with the opportunity to compare the quality of the execution, a process that he describes as being “one of the most charming of pleasures”.  James also stresses the novel’s ability to represent the author as it is the creation that is “more personal to him”.