A good up-to-date one-volume life of Henry James was long overdue; Fred Kaplan... has done the job splendidly with Henry James: The Imagination of Genius... Here, at last, is a thoughtful, balanced book to give us a consistent and persuasive account of the writers life and his development as an author. — Miranda Seymour, New York Times Book Review
One of the most influential novelists, Henry James led a life that was as rich as his writing. Born into an eccentric and difficult family, he left the United States for Europe, where he quickly became a fixture of the expatriate writing community. Fred Kaplan recreates the world of Henry James: his friendships with Edith Wharton and Joseph Conrad, his love of all things exquisite — including exquisite writing — and his quest for understanding human nature. As James himself advocated and would have wanted, this is an artful, dramatic biography, placing the chronological narrative of Jamess life in the historical context of his times.
The twenty-one-year-old Henry James, Jr., preferred to be a writer rather than a soldier. His motives for writing were clear to himself, and they were not unusual: he desired fame and fortune. Whatever additional enriching complications that were to make him notorious for the complexity of his style and thought, the initial motivation remained constant. Deeply stubborn and persistently willful, he wanted praise and money, the rewards of recognition of what he believed to be his genius, on terms that he himself wanted to establish. The one battle he thought most worth fighting was that of the imagination for artistic expression. The one empire he most coveted, the land that he wanted for his primary home, was the empire of art. — from Henry James: The Imagination of Genius