The Wings of the Dove


It seems like I’ve been grudging through The Wings of the Dove by Henry James forever. Every summer and winter my friend Bill and I read a classic novel and discuss it online. Our last book was Zola’s Germinal, which was full of blood, sweat and tears. James’ writing is the opposite in every way imaginable. Zola was earthy and real. James is ethereal and intellectual. Zola crafted characters with whom I sympathized, even his villains had their reasons and adversity. I don’t like a single character in The Wings of the Dove.

I haven’t finished and though I’m just 30 pages from the finish line and have now given myself permission to skim, I dread my daily reading. The situation in Wings of the Dove is that Kate Croy can’t marry her love Merton Densher because he’s too poor. She lives with a rich aunt who’s going to marry her off well. When Milly, an orphaned American heiress with a terminal mystery disease arrives, Kate plots to get her lover to cozy up to Milly. She figures if Milly leaves Densher her fortune, then after Milly dies, which hopefully will be soon, Kate and Densher can marry. How charming.

It bugged me that we never know what Milly has. If it’s in the book it’s hidden amongst the long-winded writing that includes few concrete description. James wanted to convey the psychology of his vapid characters. I could not care less about what they thought. Also, I don’t think he succeeded in conveying true consciousness since most the time when I’m thinking, my mind is wandering. I may think about a work situation when I’m bored in a conversation or unable to listen at church. Whenever we’re privy to Kate or Milly or some other characters’ thoughts, they’re in the situation.

I thought Densher was weak, and hence unattractive, for buying into this insipid plot. I’d say the same for Kate, who didn’t realize her plan might not go as she figured. Had she never heard the cliché, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”? Evidently not. Milly seemed like a will o’the wisp who floats through the story allowing herself to naively be taken advantage of.

I thought watching the movie would make reading easier or the characters more sympathetic, but it didn’t. I didn’t like the movie much either. While I read, I often just plowed through content to miss a lot. Sometimes I’d consult a reference on the story to see if I was missing something, but my take on the chapters captured all the key events.

I can’t wait to read something else. I know some people must love James or his work  wouldn’t be considered classic, but I don’t care for him at all.



How to Steal a Million


Starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, How to Steal a Million is another fun, witty movie. Hepburn plays the daughter of an art forger. When her home is broken into by O’Toole, her father and she fear that his forgeries will be revealed. Later they fear that a sculpture lent to a museum will be proven to be a fraud when it’s examined for insurance. Throughout the caper delights.

It’s a lighthearted romp with a clever final heist and a surprisingly moral end. It’s lots of fun and Hepburn and O’Toole are quite entertaining.


I think I’ve unearthed a scam in our area. This afternoon I got a call from the sentry that the Clean Environment Air Duct man was here. Well, I was the only one home and no one had organized an estimate. I called both of my parents and neither was available. I sent the estimator packing as no one authorized or would authorize this service.

He left a card with a big green recycling symbol, no address and no name. He wrote his cell phone number and an illegible name on the card. (Is it Tom or John? Clearly it could be either.)

Just now this guy called back saying that he was here and the homeowners had set up an appointment. Wrong. Neither of my parents set up the appointment and he got a bit aggressive before my mother ended the call. I’m wondering if this is just a scam.

A friend told me that her parents got duped by a traveling fix it guy who noticed their roof had hale damage. Really? How do you notice that from street level? Unfortunately, her parents believed him and paid him a tidy sum and it’s not clear that this guy did any more than bang his hammer on their roof a bit.

Just a couple minutes ago the scam artist, John/Tom at 847-630-5560 of “Clean Environment” Air Duct Specialists called back saying he should have apologized. I agreed, told him we were in the midst of dinner and no interest in any estimates. I wonder who gave them my parents’ information. Could it have been the air conditioning repair people from last month? Could it have been an online source?