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Lions at Lamb House [Paperback]

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Item description for Lions at Lamb House by Edwin M. Yoder, Jr....

When Boston psychologist William James fears that his brother, the novelist Henry James, is showing early signs of a debilitating neurosis, he asks Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud for assistance.

Publishers Description
In 1908, an Austrian psychiatrist receives an urgent request from a Boston colleague, who fears his brother's intention to rewrite his early novels may be the sign of debilitating neuroses. During the psychiatrist's impending sojourn in England, might he be able to spare time for a visit to his colleague's brother, and to "discreetly probe this enigma"? Unable to resist the temptation to delve into the mind of the era's most illustrious living author, he agrees and arrives in southern England in the late summer of 1908. The Austrian doctor in question is the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. The Boston psychologist is William James, and the novelist is his brother, Henry James. Over the course of ten days at Lamb House, the worlds of psychology and literature joust and collide - giving rise to this charming novel of ideas.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   239
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.62 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2007
Publisher   Europa Editions
ISBN  1933372346  
ISBN13  9781933372341  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Historical

Reviews - What do customers think about Lions at Lamb House?

"Paper Tigers at Lamb House"  Oct 7, 2007
Andre Gide once unfairly underrated James, calling him a writer with only marked intelligence, suggesting that the cerebral aspects of his fiction desiccated the rest. Anyone, though, who loves the work of the Cher Maitre as much as Edwin M.Yoder, Jr. reveals he does in this highly intelligent tribute would probably agree with Eric Bentley's dissent from Gide's judgment. James, Bentley argued, "was a melodramatist at heart." Through his characters blow passions that grip the reader, turbulent emotions the characters' own reflective capacities as "vessels of consciousness" do not snuff out. Skillful readers notice not only the tinkle of teacups and intelligent chat in James' fiction, but see as well that the hands holding the cups are frequently claws and that the noses of the same characters often resemble snouts.

In my view, the chief limitation of Yoder's present work of historical fiction, an imagined series of encounters set in 1908 between James and Freud at Lamb House, Rye, is that it, in fact, IS just intelligent and little more. The conflict between a great artist's understanding and an analytical scientist's is no doubt a grand theme, but the chief characters here are unfortunately more pasteboard conceptions of an author's mind than creations that come blazingly alive and behave with seeming spontaneity on the page. As Yoder presents them, despite a considerable amount of historical accuracy mixed in with his fiction, James and Freud have the stiff falseness of famous people in Hollywood biographical films. They can be mildly entertaining, but one doesn't believe in them for a minute.

What might also have given this comedy of manners a needed edge would have been the frequently present satiric wit and irony which enliven the work of such a predecessor as Jane Austen, as well as James himself. Again, Yoder, while not irony free, is here hardly an author of rich comic sensibility. Fine intelligence - but fine intelligence alone - is his distinguishing mark in "Lions at Lamb House."
Tilling Makes a Fellow Willing  Sep 27, 2007
Publushers Weekly of course has it wrong; the hero of Yoder's new novel is not the nephew of Henry James at all, but a college friend of said nephew. He (Horace Briscoe) is an imaginary character, invented by Yoder to give his book some shape, a governing point of view that will, in the Jamesian way, organize a mass of heterogenous material--a love story, an atempted analysis, a comedy of manners.

The problem with the book is that Yoder, a fine writer, is not a genius, and to carry off these extended pastiches of Henry James' conversations and Sigmund Freud's case histories, you'd have to have at least something of the spirit of D M Thomas, the man who gave us THE WHITE HOTEL twenty-five years ago. His attempts at Jamesian dialogue are sort of adequate, and they'd be fine if James was in the book for on or two pages, but over the course of many chapters the imposture wears thin. As for his Freud, it is utter scheisse. I can't even bring myself to describe Yoder's Edith Wharton--it's as if he took his own version of Henry James--kooky, arch, sophisticated, and brittle--and then kicked it up a notch because Wharton was, after all, rich and a woman. So he doesn't have to write the dialogue of a human being. Yes, she drives crazy too--just like the legend of Wharton--terrorizing the inhabitants of Rye. Hmm, maybe E.F. Benson knew these legends and created the divine Lucia out of bits and pieces of old stories of Wharton visiting James at Lamb House (for you know that Lucia and Georgie wing up living in Henry James' old house in Benson's novels of the 20s and 30s, where Rye is disguised as "Tilling.")

Horace Briscoe is certainly up for the job of amanuensis to James and Freud, but the problem is, not much of interest transpires. He falls in love with the beautiful, actualized Agnes Fengallon, herself a Dora or Anna O in waiting, with an "overfamiliar" boor of an uncle--the whole book could have more usefully been made up of this material, though it's more of a Dorothy Allison story than a Henry James reminiscence. However, what's more refreshing than a return to our beloved Tilling? Yoder's social comedy sense is keen--he might next stage a sequel to Mapp and Lucia in which Lucia entertains Sigmund Freud in Tilling. Now that's entertainment!
"I am eager to learn what prodigies of ennui the talking cure will dredge up from [my] 'unconscious.'"--Henry James  Sep 12, 2007
The imagined meeting of Sigmund Freud and Henry James at James's residence, Lamb House, is the focus of this surprising novel of ideas, which conveys the intellectual ferment in Europe just prior to World War I in a style which is filled with warmth and good humor. Though Freud and James seem human and even fun-loving here, the novel is no farce. Serious issues involving James's writing, his style, his subjects, and his repressions all come into play, even as Freud admits to having his own problems trying to reconcile James's creativity with the "scientific knowledge" which underlies his psychoanalytical principles.

Three characters describe different aspects of Freud's visit. Horace Briscoe, a friend of William James's son Billy, is an American literature student doing his thesis on Henry James. Living at Lamb House for the summer so he can do research, he keeps a private, objectively written journal of the meetings between Freud and "Uncle Henry," as James has asked to be called. At the same time Henry James is writing almost daily letters to a friend, author Edith Wharton, describing his often amused reactions to Freud's attempts to discern his "secrets of the alcove." He sometimes creates apocryphal stories for Freud. Freud, in turn, is keeping his own notes on James, which he plans to use for his research.

The body of the novel, set in 1908, alternates with sections written by Horace Briscoe in 1941, by which time James has been dead for twenty-five years, and Briscoe is now a middle-aged professor at Johns Hopkins. Freud has been dead for two years, and his colleagues and heirs, feeling Freud's legacy threatened by the beliefs of Jung and Adler, have become "keepers of the flame," insisting on doctrinaire psychoanalytical interpretations of Freud's writing. Briscoe fears that Freud's notes of his 1908 "analysis" of James, which he has acquired from the Freud archive, will be burned if they show Freud having moments of doubt about psychoanalysis.

Written in a lively style which never becomes ponderous, even when discussing heady literary and philosophical issues, the novel is a delight to read. While it certainly helps to have a good working knowledge of the writing of Henry James, Yoder writes so clearly that readers less familiar with James should find much to enjoy and even more to admire in this novel. Beautifully paced, with serious themes and intellectual discussions alternating with playful scenes, the novel captures the intellectual face-off of two "lions" who enjoy meeting each other as much as the reader enjoys imagining their meeting. Though Henry James expected "the talking cure" to dredge up "prodigies of ennui" from his unconscious, he greatly underestimated the prodigious talents of his "biographers," Horace Briscoe, Sigmund Freud, and, especially, Edwin Yoder. n Mary Whipple

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