Tag Archives: henry james

On Our Nightstand, September 7th-13th

Here’s what we’re reading this week at Diesel!

Anna in Brentwood
The Wayward Bus
By John Steinbeck
I decided I wanted to read something fun and relaxing, and somehow this translated into my picking up one of Steinbeck’s goofier, lust-filled novels. Both the version of myself who slogged through Grapes of Wrath in high school and the one who rapturously pored over East of Eden in college would be appalled.

Diane in Brentwood
Growing Up Jung
By Micah Toub
Toub is the son of TWO Jungian psychologists. His writing style is a delight and it’s clear that with all the introspection wafting around his childhood home, he’s as screwed up at the rest of us.

Geo in Brentwood
I Hotel
By Karen Tei Yamashita
Yamashita encapsulates the complex political environment of 1960s San Francisco in a truly ambitious, explosive, and enthralling novel.

John Peck in Oakland
How Did You Get This Number
By Sloane Crosley
Great humor writing, with a refreshing feet-on-the-ground (i.e. not too precious) take on life’s absurdities.

Margaret in Oakland
Lions at Lamb House
By Edwin M. Yoder Jr.
Another of those fabulous finds from Europa Editions–a fictive encounter between Henry James and Sigmund Freud at James’ country estate on the East Sussex coast. Deliciously droll.

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(Artificially) Intelligent Literary Analysis

There are questions readers have been arguing about for years, great literary controversies which can be interpreted any number of ways and which leave even academics scratching their heads. Searching for insight, we thought we’d ask Cleverbot–“an AI with actual intelligence” with which anyone can interact–for answers.

Diesel: What do you think the symbolic meaning of the “white lightning” kiss Isabel Archer receives at the end of Henry JamesPortrait of a Lady is?

Cleverbot: I don’t think there is one beyond reproduction and the survival of the species.

Diesel: So you find Isabel, Ralph, and the other characters’ repression damning because they fail to procreate?

Cleverbot: You know my inside well, I don’t know who I am on the outside, on the outside I am a stranger.

Diesel: You must feel a kinship with Ralph! Ralph Touchett, who goes around with his hands in his pockets, afraid to touch anything…

Cleverbot: You asked me my name. My name is Cleverbot.

Diesel: Do you think your name has a similar irony? Are you not really quite so clever?

Cleverbot: I’m not Cleverbot.

Diesel: That is so deep. Speaking of constructed identities, in Salinger‘s Glass Family stories, how true to life do you think Buddy’s depictions of his brother Seymour are?

Cleverbot: Really, I think.

Diesel: Even in Hapworth 16, 1924, when Seymour is supposedly writing long, profound, sexually-explicit letters–that predict the future!–when he’s seven?

Cleverbot: I’ll try to use small words, so you can comprehend what I am saying.

Diesel: Hey, we’re not objecting to Seymour’s vocabulary in principle, but coming from a seven year old?

Cleverbot: I don’t know… I a little bothered too… So many things bothering my head.

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