Review: The Figure in the Carpet, by Henry James

This novella (or short story) is the first thing I’ve read by Henry James and it was … interesting. At first the style is a bit heavy, with very long sentences, but over time one adjusts. It’s a strange story told by a man who earns his living writing literary criticism (book reviews). He reviews a book by a well known author and then meets the man. The review is positive, but the author tells him that he’s missed the point — and all the reviewers and critics have missed it too. All his books, he says, every word he has written, revolve around a common idea — the figure in the carpet of the story’s title. The narrator reads through all the books again, but cannot figure it out. His closest friend does the same — but then, while in India, he has an epiphany and sends a telegram back to London saying that he has figured it all out. I won’t say what happens next, but if literary mysteries are a genre, this must be part of the canon.