RTE Irish Radio Interview, 4 August 2008

July 28th, 2008 Posted in Events | No Comments »

I will be interviewed live in RTE Irish Radio on 4 August 2008 at 11:30am local time.  Also check out the Irish Times book review of House of Wits at http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2008/0726/1216917585422.html.

In the Palazzo Barbaro, Venice, 1882

July 22nd, 2008 Posted in Magic Lantern | No Comments »

“William went to lunch at the home of his wealthy friends Daniel Sargent Curtis and Ariana Randolph Wormeley Curtis at the Palazzo Barbaro–in one of two adjacent palaces that shared this name, one medieval and one baroque, fronting the wide, watery, S-shaped thoroughfare of the Grand Canal.  The Curtises’ staggering Venetian rental, which they would purchase outright in 1885, featured ‘colossal dimensions’ and a highly encrusted ‘grand style’ that impressed even the jaded William.  In cultivating such splendors, William had transformed his life into Harry’s.  Maybe William now wanted to be Harry even more than, historically, trailing his more confident big brother around London or the Newport art studio, Harry had wanted to be William.

“At the Curtises’, William had lunch with a hanger-on cousin of the family, the twenty-six-year-old painter John Singer Sargent.  Sargent and his cousin Ralph Wormeley Curtis, his studio protégé, were scouring the city for picturesque Venetian genre scenes–Sargent had been coloring up canvasses of Venetian women glassworkers and bead stringers.  But in 1882, the year of William’s visit, Sargent also daubed a portrait of William’s hostess, Ariana Curtis, that showed, against a sea of Spanish black, a formidable, strong-cheeked matron.  Wearing pearls, a lace collar, and a lace cap to contrast with all her black, the Sargentized Ariana Curtis observed the world with languid, half-lidded eyes–a taste of the expatriate splendor that William had to ‘fall back upon’ during those rainy evenings away from his wife.”

(c) Paul Fisher 2008 – All Rights Reserved


The Young Alice James Keeps Quiet at Dinner

July 18th, 2008 Posted in Meet the Jameses | No Comments »

“Edward Emerson [son of Ralph Waldo Emerson] visited in Newport in 1860 and 1861, witnessing the congenial battlefield that was the James household, particularly since all four boys had reached their teens.  It daunted even Emerson’s son to stay, as he later put it, with this ‘brilliant, original, and affectionate’ family.  Meanltimes never failed to rouse competitive spirits.  Whatever stocky and mild Wilkie happened to say, he was ‘instantly corrected or disputed by the little cock-sparrow Bob,’ Emerson observed.  Then Wilkie would good-naturedly fend Bob off, with Harry also chiming in to deflect Bob’s taunts.  It was a fast-moving blood sport.

“Bob, barely flustered, only ratcheted up his invective, brining Henry Senior into the fray as a guardian of minimum civility.  Eventually, he would be drowned out by William as well as the other three never-silent sons.  Dinner knives swiped dangerously in gesticulating hands.

“Mary James, ‘bright as well as motherly,’ took the shy Edward under her wing, laughed reassuringly, and said, ‘Don’t be disturbed, Edward; they won’t stab each other.  This is usual when the boys come home.’  Alice quietly enjoyed this rough and tumble, ‘smiling, close to the combatants.’  But at least at this stage she didn’t join in these high-spirited contests.  Girls were supposed to remain decorous and not raise knives–or voices, for that matter.”

(c) Paul Fisher 2008 – All Rights Reserved

Portsmouth, New Hampshire Bookstore Appearance, 11 August 2008

July 18th, 2008 Posted in Events | No Comments »

I will be appearing at the RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on August 11, time tba.

Houston, Texas Area Radio Interview, 21 July 2008

July 18th, 2008 Posted in Events | No Comments »

I will be talking to Jone Devlin on KPFT Houston on July 21 at 9:30pm local time.

Madison, Wisconsin Area Radio Interview, 20 July 2008

July 18th, 2008 Posted in Events | No Comments »

Stephanie Woods will be interviewing me on “Sundays with Stephanie” on WTDY-AM (1670) in Madison at 12:10pm local time.

Henry James Jr.’s Injury Keeps Him Out of the Civil War

July 10th, 2008 Posted in Meet the Jameses | No Comments »

“In the middle of the night on April 17, 1861, with ‘the smoke of Charleston bay still acrid in the air,’ Harry, perhaps stimulated by the atmosphere of excitement, pitched in with a crowd of young men who were fighting a fire that had broken out at the Newport armory.

“With others, Harry strained to bring to life an old rusty pump in the stable yard.  As he worked doggedly to draw water, he got crowded into an awkward position, ‘jammed into an acute angle between two high fences.’  Then something tore.  In a spasm of agony, Harry did himself what he later called a ‘horrid even if an obscure hurt.’  Because Harry remained cryptic in his later memoirs, describing this mishap as an embarassing and ‘extraordinarily intimate,’ biographers speculated for a long time that Harry’s injury was genital.  Historical sources, however, confirm only a back problem . . .

“This ‘hurt’ strangely mimicked Henry Senior’s earlier leg injury.  Both accidents occurred during fires in stables, both struck in adolescence, and both severed the men, father and son, from the ease of ‘normal’ lives.  Harry’s accident, anyway, marked him as disabled in some way.  The ‘hurt’ amounted to a gash he’d carry not only through the Civil War but also on into his adulthood.”

(c) Paul Fisher 2008 – All Rights Reserved

Boston Area Radio Reading, 15 July 2008

July 10th, 2008 Posted in Events | No Comments »

I will be reading from the book and talking to Leslie Lombino on “Words and Music,” WFMO, Medford, Massachusetts, on Tuesday, July 15, at 7pm local time.

Hudson Valley Radio Interview, 13 July 2008

July 10th, 2008 Posted in Events | No Comments »

I will be appearing on “Roundtable” at WDST, Woodstock, NY, on Sunday, July 13, at 8:05am local time.

Teenage William James Defends the U.S.A.

July 2nd, 2008 Posted in Meet the Jameses | No Comments »

“William looked at the high corniced houses and great parks of the world’s largest city with a more jaundiced eye–the eye of a sardonic, assertive adolescent and a partisan of New York.  London, he calculated in a letter to a friend back in Manhattan, was six times the size of New York.  (In 1855, the English metropolis was actually nearer to three times the size of the Jameses’ hometown.)  But bigger didn’t necessarily mean better, and the city struck the proudly biased  William as ‘much to big to be agreeable.’  He could only regard London as ‘a great huge unwieldy metropolis with a little through it’–hardly a ringing endorsement.

“Paradoxically, William’s love of irony could partly be traced back to Dickens–himself a product of this restless London scene.  But now the boy’s sarcasm also sprang from his own displacement, from his and his siblings’ unfolding experience of what Harry would later call ‘hotel children’–children of transience and transit.  Their father had his own business; he went to Chelsea to refresh his acquaintance with the irascible [Thomas] Carlyle (whom he cleverly pronounced to be ‘the same old sausage, fizzing and sputtering in his own grease’).  But the children–between glorious cab rides–embarked now on their new career of exploring ‘the great bleak parlours of the hotels.'”

(c) Paul Fisher 2008 – All Rights Reserved