"I've been sacrificing so to strange gods that I feel I want to put on record, somehow, my fidelity--fundamentally unchanged after all--to our own. I feel as if my hands were imbrued with the blood of monstrous alien altars--of another faith altogether."
If the first 200 hundred pages were a difficult ascent, like the strain of the roller coaster as it locks and raises inch by inch upward, straining toward that briefest star-like peak, as the eye spills forward and the heart prepares, as the clock is felt and there is time to wonder that you're still there at all, the last 2hundred 70 pages completely fall out from underneath you as the floor imminently blushes, the angle slams, the blackness trembles from that supernal and mortal height--the body falls, and the mind is in flames. You yourself feel that you're a manifestation of the "sacred rage" of Waymarsh. (Or maybe the Adagio from Mendolssohn's Fmajor sonata for violin and piano. I'm obsessed with Anne-Sophie Mutter's 2008 recording this week!)
At the finish of James' The Ambassadors it feels as if everything in the world were at risk, all is lost, and yet nothing happens. It's as if we're creatures made of anticipation and failure, and that's the sad thrill of humanity. The comic dimension of the tragedy of feeling. Like that contemporary, if no less broken, Ophelia-haunted Maria Gostrey, who plays the part of the reader, the attentive inquirer, patient, even omniscient, who like us finds herself, protected as she was, singed now with a desire she's kept secret, perhaps even from herself, and willing, ultimately, inevitably, to reduce herself now for its fulfillment, to give herself to love as if to servitude, whom with, by the end of the novel, we "sigh it at last all comically, all tragically, away", mumbling as much to ourselves in the mirror of self-denial as to the myth of true love, "I can't indeed resist you." And there it is. The uncompromising, sensual Lucretian truth of it.
Steal it if you can.
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