Henry James: The Imagination of Genius: A Biography

Fred Kaplan, Author William Morrow & Company $25 (620p) ISBN 978-0-688-09021-0
Similar in its emotional complexity and cunning insights to James's own novels, this remarkably vivid biography offers a nuanced portrait of the author as an ambivalent Victorian, a voluntary expatriate who paid the price for his independence in lonelliness and alienation. As portrayed here, James (1843-1916) took ``the feminine role in his sexual identity, his social life, and his fiction.'' Generally repressing his homoerotic desires--though he fell in love with numerous men--James was haunted by the fear that his renunciation of sexuality had kept him from experiencing life's depths . Kaplan, biographer of Dickens and Carlyle and professor of English at Queens College in New York City, illuminates the psychodynamics of James's troubled family: his father, an energetic handicapped philosopher, starved himself to death; Alice, the novelist's mentally ill sister, looked to brothers William and Henry as husband substitutes. Kaplan persuasively shows how James projected his inner conflicts and obsession with repressed sexuality onto his fictional characters. Photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
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