Art of Fiction by Henry James - Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge


In this classic essay which originally appeared in his 1888 collection Partial Portraits, Henry James argues against rigid proscriptions on the novelist's choice of subject and method of treatment. He maintains that the widest possible freedom in content and approach will help ensure narrative fiction's continued vitality.


The Art of Fiction is an essay responding to a lecture of on the same topic by Mr. Besant. It was an interesting read and really made me think more about novels and the writing process. James talks about defining a novel as art and what makes a novel "good". I agreed with a lot of his points, and I enjoyed reading his thoughts on novels as art. James really picks apart Besant's lecture, agreeing and disagreeing with the things he said and telling us why. 

The best thing about it is James' rules for writing a novel. Make it interesting. Be true to reality. Experiment and see what happens. It seems so simple, but if I were to think of a good vs bad book I would say the bad ones lack in some of these areas. Though I might amend the second to be true to reality and the reality you create.

"But the only condition that I can think of attaching to the composition of the novel is, as I have already said, that it be interesting"

This is not something I would have read if not the the Rory Gilmore Challenge, but I am glad I did. Really a short, quick read but worth a look. You can find it online for free here.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★


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