The Figure in the Carpet by Henry James
The story of an unsolved literary mystery that explores what James referred to as "troubled artistic consciousness"
I enjoyed this, but I’m not too sure why; it was no Turn of the Screw.
Our protagonist is a keen book reviewer for a popular periodical. After reviewing the work of a pretty famous author, he is lucky enough to meet him at a social gathering. The author hints to our protagonist that no critic has ever successfully hit upon the one thing he has peppered throughout his novels. This maddens the protagonist, and we join him on a journey to uncover the meaning behind all of the novels.
There’s a lot to be said here about author intention. To this day, authors still subtly refer to their meaning, and their intent, in words. Does it really matter? If one enjoys a novel, what are the consequences of deriving a meaning no where near that of the author? Is author intention relevant in every book, or are they just trying to encourage us to read (or reread) their work? Do we subconsciously look for meaning in works of literature? Does finding meaning give us pride? Accomplishment? Who the hell knows.
Although not as compelling as his other works, it’s (ironically) fun to try and deduce what James is getting at with this one. I was only glad I remembered whose pages I was reading from before the finale came like a kick in the gut.