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I’ve been reading The Ambassadors as part of my push to enjoy or purge books from my shelves. I’m about two thirds through, approaching page 300, but I already feel like I’ve read about 500 pages. I don’t know if the actual book I am reading is particularly densely typeset or if it is a quality of the prose.

It has been making me think about abstraction. Not a lot happens, at least so far. There are inscrutable conversations. Many things and people are “sleek” and “wonderful.” Reflections on “youth” and “failure” abound. Words pile up in an effort to describe the minute gradations of feeling. It is fascinating, and yet I sigh with relief when at last I reach an omelet and a Chablis, something physical, perceptible, real, insofar as an omelet made of ink on paper can be real. I cling to that cigarette, that white hat, the walking stick knob rapping on the door lest I be whisked away into Strether’s ruminations on character improvements, impossible situations, and undescribed bibelots.

Perhaps the text is not the point. Perhaps the art is the arrangement of black marks on pages aged to a mellow sallowness, wrapped in a smooth and soothing red cover. Perhaps it is the idea of a book and not a book itself.

I feel the elusive something just out of reach, hinted at in the glance of Miss Gostrey, unless is it Mme. de Vionnet.

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