27 August 2007

Mystic conversion

A favorite person on a favorite topic:
To me, Henry James' charm is that he fills in the interstices between conversation tags. According to Annie Dillard, "there are no events but thoughts." Therefore, it is in the mind that any occurrence becomes an event. James echoes this himself in his preface to The Portrait of a Lady when he writes, "but what is truer than that on one side—the side of their independence of flood and field, of the moving accident, of battle and murder and sudden death—her adventures are to be mild? Without her sense of them, her sense for them, they are next to nothing at all; but isn't the beauty and the difficulty just in showing their mystic conversion [...] into the stuff of drama?" This "sense for them" is what transforms the incident into the event, and it is just this sense that James succeeds in illuminating.

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