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The Jolly Corner

Henry James

Book Overview: 

“The Jolly Corner,” is considered by many to be a ghost story ranking second only to “The Turn of the Screw.” James’s protagonist, Spencer Brydon, is an American of 56, returned to New York after 33 years in Europe, where he has apparently accomplished little while living off his New York rentals. His friendship with Alice Staverton, and his engagement in the development of a property awaken him to the possibilities that might have been his, had he chosen a different course of life. The “ghost,” if that’s what it is, is that other self that might have been, and his confrontation with that self and its possibilities leads to a deeply unsettling, yet ambiguous, conclusion.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .He had found the place, just as it stood and beyond what he could express, an interest and a joy.  There were values other than the beastly rent-values, and in short, in short—!  But it was thus Miss Staverton took him up.  “In short you’re to make so good a thing of your sky-scraper that, living in luxury on those ill-gotten gains, you can afford for a while to be sentimental here!”  Her smile had for him, with the words, the particular mild irony with which he found half her talk suffused; an irony without bitterness and that came, exactly, from her having so much imagination—not, like the cheap sarcasms with which one heard most people, about the world of “society,” bid for the reputation of cleverness, from nobody’s really having any.  It was agreeable to him at this very moment to be sure that when he had answered, after a brief demur, “Well, yes; so, precisely, you may put it!” her . . . Read More

Community Reviews

This classic "doppelganger" story sheds new light on Henry James' use of the Gothic. The "Ghost" here is the imagined version of the protagonist as what he might have been if his life had gone a different direction. At first this spectre is dreamed up by a female friend of the protagonist, then t...more

Cosa sarebbe stato se…?
Ad una prima parte introduttiva e ad un’ultima di chiusura, abbastanza scontate, si aggiunge un solido corpo centrale che vale tutto questo “corto romanzo”. In esso appare coinvolgente l’aspetto psicologico; risultano accurate le sfumature, le descrizioni delle ansie, delle...more

This short story is undoubtedly unique once you learn how beautifully it was crafted but the experience of reading it is too exhausting for me to like it.

2.5, rounded down.

I'm not a fan of James - his prose is way too flowery and longwinded for my taste, and there doesn't ever seem to be much of a plot - so the only reason I read this is because it figures prominently in Domenico Starnone's 'Trick', which I wanted to read, and which translator Jhu...more

"The Jolly Corner" is more a long short story than a novel, but since I read it in a Kindle stand-alone version as a follow-up to Domenico Starnone's "Trick," which plays off James' story, I will briefly review it here. The central character, Spencer Brydon, has returned from Europe to America af...more

I expected too much from this edition after I saw that it was listed as "Illustrated." I had just finished reading Domenico Starnone's Trick in which a senior-aged illustrator is himself actually working on illustrations for The Jolly Corner (1908) while revisiting his own childhood home in order...more

I liked some parts of it, but once again, I found it unnecessarily long. Too many details. I like the character of Alice and I would have prefered a deeper exploration of her instead of this obsessive focus on the annoying "ghost".

I don't know why I persist in reading Henry James. He's hard to understand and kind of weird. This book is no exception.

The Jamesian Reread #2

Henry James’ last ghost story, and his finest since The Turn of the Screw, is also his final meditation on some of his most personal concerns: the international theme, the American who goes back after a long period spent in the Old World and his impressions of a rapidly chan...more

Sometimes you take a bite out of literature, and sometimes literature takes a bite out of you. Reading The Jolly Corner exhausted me; Henry James's prose, while apt and detailed, felt drawn-out and extended in ways that served only to fulfill the "intellectual for the sake of sounding intellectua...more

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