By P.K. Roy
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The stories are told by little journalistic hacks whose naivete and philistinism underline James's ironic view of literary celebrity and what would today be called the "public image" of the artist. " Nor can he teach her how to be an artist. In a personal sense these tales were selfconsolatory; they helped soften the injury of his public failure. At the same time they are searching parables of the artist-life. " Nevertheless it prompdy captured the imagination of his readers. No work of James's has, indeed, stirred up more argument or provoked more insistent claims by critics, each offering his particular interpretation.
He should, therefore, James holds, make the most of this illusion. Written in the high style of James's late years, The Ambassadors represents the novel form carried to a level of extraordinary "art": mere storytelling has given way to intricate effects, as on a stage. There is no scene in James more brilliantly realized than that in which Lambert Strether, thinking of an old painting of the French countryside he had once seen in Boston, wanders into the Parisian suburbs and finds himself, as it were, inside the frame of that painting, walking about in its landscape.
Carried to the extent to which it is carried by Mr. James ... it becomes very sensible, a very appreciable element of a work of art. " Brownell went qn to point out with considerable force that we are altogether too much aware of the absence of the author for his abnegation to be effective. "We see him busily getting out of the way, visibly withdrawing behind the screen of his story, illustrating his theory by palpably withholding from us the expected, the needful, exposition and explanation ...