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This extract from The Art
of the Novel was an exercise in aural fascination. In David Case's well-modulated performances, James came across
as an authoritative figure - well-read, confident yet also firmly of the opinion that the novel as an art form had to develop
from its nineteenth century realistic form into something more internal, more expressive of individual feelings. The
whole concept of the relationship between narrator and characters needed to be rethought, while authors themselves had to
consider their own positions; they could not assume the omniscient position characteristic of Fielding or Defoe (for instance).
Times had changed; and James' Art of the Novel tried in many ways to acknowledge such changes and their consequences
for the novel's future.
At the same time Case's reading revealed the extent to which The Art of the Novel can be read as
an internal meditation. James is not just pronouncing on the future of the novel, but exploring his own mind and how
he, as a well-respected novelist, can expand his field of vision to produce more innovative work. This desire is not
commercially inspired, but something that James believes is the responsibility of every creative artist.
Although comparatively short
(only nineteen minutes long), this reading is perhaps one of the best I have recently heard.