RARA-AVIS: Hammett and... Henry James

From: jacquesdebierue ( jacquesdebierue@yahoo.com)
Date: 21 Nov 2007

Not long ago, a comparison was made here between the hardboiled style exemplified by Dashiell Hammett and the labored, labyrinthine style of Henry James.

The other day, while reading Thurber's _Lances and Lanterns_, I came across an excellent essay on Henry James, which, surprisingly, starts thus:

One night nearly thirty years ago, in a legendary New York boite de nuit et des arts called Tony's, I was taking part in a running literary gun fight that had begun with a derogatory or complimentary remark somebody made about something, when one of the participants, former Pinkerton man Dashiell Hammett, whose The Maltese Falcon had come out a couple of years before, suddenly startled us all by announcing that his writing had been influenced by Henry James's novel The Wings of the Dove. Nothing surprises me any more, but I couldn't have been more surprised then if Humphrey Bogart, another frequenter of that old salon of wassail and debate, had proclaimed that his acting bore the deep impress of the histrionic art of Maude Adams.

[Thurber then proceeds to analyze, quite brilliantly, The Wings of the Dove and its relation to The Maltese Falcon, as well as the work of James as a whole.]

For those who might have the essay in another collection, its title is
_The Wings of Henry James_.It appeared originally in The New Yorker.

In any case, it's ironic that a connection between these two stylistic opposites seems to exist...



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