The language of Henry James in A Small Boy and Others is a softly spoken dream that gently begs the use of the reader’s own tongue. The dream is in color; it has no corners or edges or sides; it is more like the distance one travels between a robin’s breast and a fully ripe strawberry — the kind of journey a child makes many times each day — even this child, who is sixty-four years old, and surprised to find himself living so far into the twenty-first century. And if this child did not find himself, would he be any less surprised? If he were suddenly gone from the streets, gone from the wooded paths he loves, gone from the tragedy, gone from the drama, gone from the pain, would he be any less filled with gratitude and wonder? Not, we may say, as long as he dreams. And that dream, at least today, is the language of Henry James in A Small Boy and Others. For this child did fall asleep while reading James after lunch, after coffee; and the language continued in the shape of a dream, and the language was both that of James and of the child — the child heard the language, in the same way a dear someone in the next room might have heard the heavy, measured breathing of his midday rest. And when the child awoke, it was to the wealth of his own infinite, inexhaustible experience, wishing to be examined and told.
June 7, 2020. Afternoon. On having begun Autobiographies, by Henry James,
in the edition published by the Library of America, 2016.
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