henry james

When Books Find You

I’m not a terribly superstitious person, but for some reason I believe that books find me exactly when I need them. What I’m reading always seems to mirror what I’m going through. It’s as if my inner knowing guides me to titles that will help to illuminate the way.

Most recently, this happened when I picked up a book I’ve had on my shelf for a long time but never bothered to read. Henry James’ The Jolly Corner.

It starts out like a ghost story, but turns into an epic battle between a man and the man he might have been. An excerpt:

He found all things come back to the question of what he personally might have been, how he might have led his life and ‘turned out,’ if he had not at the outset, given it up.

“It comes over me that I had then a strange alter ego deep down somewhere within me, as the full-blown flower is in the small tight bud, and that I just took the course, I just transferred him to the climate, that blighted him for once and for ever.”

“And you wonder about the flower,” Miss Staverton said. “So do I, if you want to know; and so I’ve been wondering these several weeks. I believe in the flower,” she continued, “I feel it would have been quite splendid, quite huge and monstrous.”

“Monstrous above all!” her visitor echoed, “and I imagine, by the same stroke, quite hideous and offensive.”

“You don’t believe that,” she returned; “if you did you wouldn’t wonder. You’d know, and that would be enough for you. What you feel – and what I feel for you – is that you’d have had power.”