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The Real Thing

Henry James

Book Overview: 

The Real Thing is, on one level, a somewhat ironic tale of an artist and two rather particular models. Yet it also raises questions about the relationship between the notion of reality in our humdrum world, and the means that an artist must use in trying to achieve, or reflect, that reality. Though the protagonist is an artist and illustrator of books, not a writer, it's not hard to imagine that James has himself, and other writers, in mind.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . order of ideas, conspicuously and irreproachably "good." For a woman of her age her waist was surprisingly small; her elbow moreover had the orthodox crook. She held her head at the conventional angle; but why did she come to ME? She ought to have tried on jackets at a big shop. I feared my visitors were not only destitute, but "artistic"— which would be a great complication. When she sat down again I thanked her, observing that what a draughtsman most valued in his model was the faculty of keeping quiet.

"Oh, SHE can keep quiet," said Major Monarch. Then he added, jocosely: "I've always kept her quiet."

"I'm not a nasty fidget, am I?" Mrs. Monarch appealed to her husband.

He addressed his answer to me. "Perhaps it isn't out of place to mention—because we ought to be quite business-like, oughtn't we?— that when I married her she was known as the Beautiful Statue."

"Oh dear!" s. . . Read More