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The Reverberator (2007)

The Reverberator (2007)

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3.33 of 5 Votes: 2
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1406526800 (ISBN13: 9781406526806)
dodo press

About book The Reverberator (2007)

The Reverberator, which was originally published in Macmillan's Magazine in 1888, is about Americans abroad and the increasing intrusiveness of a certain kind of gossipy newspaper. It's also, mostly, about people: how they act, what they say, what motivates them. It's set in Paris, but aside from a trip to Saint-Germain and a ride through the Bois de Boulogne, we hardly see the city or its environs: it's a very interior book, set mostly in the hotel where Francie Dosson, her sister Delia, and their father have rooms, or in the studio where Francie has her portrait painted, or in the family home of Gaston Probert, Francie's husband-to-be. In addition to the Dossons and to Probert and his family, the key figure in the book is George Flack, who is a reporter for the Reverberator and also a suitor of Francie. Mr. Dosson is very rich, and Flack wants Francie's money; Probert, a sort of hack of a painter with money of his own from his family, wants her beauty. But what does Francie want? Well, it's not entirely clear, maybe even to her. (Her sister, Delia, is the forceful one; Francie is described as having "an unformed voice and very little knowledge" (15).)So, right: the Dossons are in Paris. They met Flack a year earlier, on the boat over, and he's showing them a good time in the city, taking them to nice restaurants (ordering meals that Mr. Dosson happily pays for), and being smitten with Francie. Flack takes Francie to the studio of a painter, Charles Waterlow, who will paint her portrait; Probert is there hanging out with Waterlow and is enchanted by Francie's beauty. Francie and Probert get engaged, but he's worried about needing to win over his family: they're American but his sisters are all married to French aristocrats, and the Dossons are common by comparison, and he won't marry without his family's approval. Francie is worried about Probert's family too, convinced she'll do something to alienate them. And so it's no surprise when she does: she talks to Flack about them, he publishes a piece in the paper, and the Proberts flip out at the scandalous things it says about them (e.g. that a sister-in-law is a kleptomaniac, that the husband of one of Gaston's sisters is having an affair). But why, exactly, does Francie do it: is she clueless? Is she, as she says, just repaying Flack for his kindnesses to her family? Is she trying to sabotage her chances of marriage to Probert? Is she trying to force him to choose between his family and her? I can see the reasons this is an interesting book, and it has some excellent funny moments. I like this description of how dependent the Dossons become on Flack: "He made them feel indeed that they didn't know anything about anything, even about such a matter as ordering shoes—an art in which they vaguely supposed themselves rather strong" (22). Or Mr. Probert the elder on Francie: "She says 'Parus,' my dear boy" (94). (Oh, snap.) But it wasn't totally my style: I wanted more description, more Paris (Parus?), more long delicious Jamesian sentences like this:The court was roofed with glass; the April air was mild; the cry of women selling violets came in from the street and, mingling with the rich hum of Paris, seemed to bring with it faintly the odour of the flowers. There were other odours in the place, warm, succulent and Parisian, which ranged from fried fish to burnt sugar; and there were many things besides: little tables for the post-prandial coffee; piles of luggage inscribed (after the initials, or frequently the name, R.P. Scudamore or D. Jackson Hatch), Philadelphia, Pa., or St. Louis, Mo.; rattles of unregarded bells, flittings of tray-bearing waiters, conversations with the second-floor windows of admonitory landladies, arrivals of young women with coffinlike bandboxes covered with black oilcloth and depending from a strap, sallyings forth of persons staying and arrivals, just afterwards, of other persons to see them; together with vague prostrations on benches of tired heads of American families. (17)

Henry James takes on the 19th century paparazzi in this relatively breezy and straightforward (remember, it *is* Henry James) tale. The usual suspects are gathered by Hank: innocent American girl, rich American father, old European society family, and modern villain upsetting everybody. The villain (Flack!) is the editor of a 19th century version of Perez Hilton. His rag, "The Reverberator" sells salacious stories of society figures in the old countries for the readership of the American democratic populace - in an attempt to cash in on the presumed prejudice of the "egalitarian" Americans for the corrupt Europeans.The innocent Francie is courted by Flack in Paris and monopolizes Francie's family by showing the parts of Paris they wouldn't have known without him. Then he makes the mistake of taking Francie to a painter where she meets Gaston Probert - the heir of a French family so old that even the oldest society contacts of Flack can't place them. The love triangle inevitably happens and everyone proves their internal worth by behaving badly, innocently or honorably.James is on task a lot more in this one than he was in The Princess Casamassima, which was a slog for me. His prose tics are dampened (he doesn't feel the need to use three or more modifiers when one good one would do) and there is actually some pace to the novel! Albeit the characters aren't as deep in this one, but I think its a fair trade. And he didn't start the book with a three page paragraph!!!

Do You like book The Reverberator (2007)?

"She seemed to be doing nothing as hard as she could." I feel as though, of this whole book, this is the quote which most accurately epitomizes the essence of what I've just read. A lot of nothing going on, to be sure. In fact, the story was unrelentingly snail-like in it's progression; it doesn't really take flight until chapter 9 of the 14 chapter which comprise the book. However, when it does finally take flight, it soars till the end. Unfortunately, there just aren't any real people in this book, only brief sketches of unrealistic characters and situations which were evidently intended to be comical.The psychological character analysis, for which James is best known, compels the reader to take an active interest in people and problems which might otherwise be ignored. He does not achieve that here. I'd say is worth the read if you're a big Henry James fan, line myself, otherwise don't bother with it.

Amazing!!! A James comedy with a happy ending! I wish someone would make a movie of this. Remember when all those people were writing blogs about their love lives, and then their lovers would be like, what we do is private! and break up with them and then the New York Times would say this exemplifies the life/love of modern young people? This book is basically exactly like that but zanier and in the old times.

The title refers to an American newspaper, not a coveted sex toy. A major character, George Flack, pushy, funsy fella in Europe, rollicks the plot by sending a gossipy "Abroad" col home about some Americans in Paris, c 1888. Henry James frowned upon the Press and its vulgar excuse to "Get a story" -- any story, especially if it's trivial. Interestingly, "Flack" is the word used for any publicist (pr person) who is paid to promote a client or "plant" a story in the Press. Our august Press - ink/online - is 85% dependent upon "flackery" to fill its space. Mostly it's the editors who have 3d rate minds. James based his comedy of manners on a reporter who betrayed a US ambassador by scribbling an off-record chat. James >unintentionally< leaves our sympathies w Flack and Francie. A tempest in a demi-tasse.Francie, our heroine, a beautiful but naive American girl, finds her silly marriage to an aristo threatened by what she innocently tells Flack, who pursues copy for a column (and loves Francie). It's a Comedy of Innocence that foreshadows the people-celebrity oriented trash that consumes ink/tv/online. Except now it's Big Bizness. The Only Media Bizness.After disappointmenting sales fr The Bostonians and The Princess Casamassima (swell NET password, eh?), James settled on this jeu d'esprit. For lumpkins who find James long-winded, I suggest this neglected fable (2d tier Js), where Francie and her daddy keep marrons glacees on every table.

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