As Bethany said in her posts about The Aspern Papers and The Turn of the Screw, the sum total of time we spent on these potboilers in AP English was not very much. I remember talking about them at least briefly, because otherwise how would I have known that these were potboilers? And I know I read them at the time. I remember being very disappointed in The Turn of the Screw, and I remember finding The Aspern Papers woefully boring. Flash forward to the summer of 2013, and things are a bit different. I remember enjoying The Aspern Papers quite a bit this time around, and I remember still being very disappointed in The Turn of the Screw, though for somewhat different reasons. Come with me in my time machine, and we can try and reconstruct my thoughts from seven months ago, shall we?
In the interests of time I’m going to go ahead and just write one post about both novellas. Much as I would love to get into the meat of these two stories (not that there’s much meat to be had, I’m afraid), mostly I want to finish with 2013’s books and move on to the ones I’ve read more recently. Also, please refer to Bethany’s wonderful posts about these novellas for plot summary.
The Aspern Papers has an unnamed first person narrator, a scholar of literature, or perhaps a zealot stalkter-type. He travels to Italy to try and get his hands on secret correspondence between Jeffrey Aspern, and his muse, his Juliana. Shenanigans ensue with the Misses Bordereau and unnamed scholar/zealot never does get his hands on these letters. I marked off this passage in the midst of it all: “ ‘Do you think it’s right to rake up the past?’ ‘I don’t feel that I know what you mean by raking it up. How can we get at it unless we dig a little? The present has such a rough way of treading it down’” (p. 106). The elder Miss Bordereau asks the question and the narrator gives the answer. I’m not sure what exactly this has to do with the plot of the novella but I liked it and I’m sharing it with you.
As for The Turn of the Screw, it disappointed me in 1993 because it wasn’t a real ghost story. And in 2013 it disappointed me because it still wasn’t a real ghost story and also because I can’t figure out if the kids were evil or if the governess was crazy. And why in the hell was Miles kicked out of school? And what was the deal with Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper? Was she egging the governess on, or was she part of the problem?
And I’m spent. Don’t stay away from these little stories because of my half-assed post about them. I would have had lots more to say about them back in July when I first finished them. A lot of it would have been favorable, and the unfavorable comments would have been amusing and interesting. This experiment in procrastination on the blog that I’ve been engaged in has obviously failed. Nothing good ever came from putting off doing one’s homework for six months. Let’s all remember that, children.
So that’s a picture of my copy of this book up there. I’m not sure what possessed me to pose it next to a picture of my dog Spinner and my dearly departed cat Hazel, but I suspect I did not have an actual cat available to pose it with.
I don’t know – I think side by side with a couple of now-deceased pets is an entirely appropriate way to photograph a Henry James novel.
Spinner isn’t dead. Yet. He’s fairly senile, but he is alive. And probably peeing in my house right about now.
I’m sorry I called Spinner dead. My mistake.