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The Altar Of The Dead Paperback – September 10, 2010

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About the Author

American novelist, short-story writer, and man of letters, James is a major figure in the history of the novel. One of the pioneers of psychological realism and complex prose style, he holds a place as an unparalleled interpreter of the world of today. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 34 pages
  • Publisher: Kessinger Publishing, LLC (September 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1162687606
  • ISBN-13: 978-1162687605
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,773,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
In Henry James’ ‘The Altar of the Dead’ , a man, George Stransom, is horrified by the idea of how brief our time is and how quickly we are forgotten and so he builds an altar of candles for the people he has known who have died in an effort to keep their memories alive for a bit longer. There are candles for all of his late acquaintances except for one, who did him a terrible injustice. After some arrangements this altar is installed in a church and the man visits regularly. A woman begins sitting at the altar, also visiting her dead. Eventually, bound by grief, they begin a sort of friendship, until a revelation occurs that seemingly makes their companionship untenable.

The entire story is a sort of literary memento mori , which I enjoy, and the writing is itself like multiple candles in the night–both luminous and dark. It’s the sort of story that can be read multiple times without losing its capacity to impress.

The idea of a person not truly being gone until they are forgotten is also covered in Kevin Brockmeier’s quite good The Brief History of the Dead , which is based on the belief of some African tribes that there are three types of people, the living, the recently departed (whom the living still remember) and the dead whose names are only known.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This story is Henry James at his best. As he ages, George Stransom can't let go of his love for Mary Antrim, who died before they could be wed. He seems to be successful at work but his devotion to Mary leads him to lavishly embellish a chapel in a Catholic church into an altar to Mary. He adds a candle for each friend who dies and spends more and more time there among his lost loved ones. From his first visit to the church, he notices a woman in black who often visits his chapel and as time goes on they develop a deep friendship. The reader can't help wishing that these two could spend less time in the past and learn to enjoy one another in the present, but alas, it is too late when they arrive at that possibility. The story ends with a "Gift of the Magi" twist and the reader closes the book with a sigh.
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By jennifer McDowell on July 21, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Loved it
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By Scott on February 20, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Liked it
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By V. Covert on September 13, 2001
Format: Unbound
The Altar of the Dead, by Henry James, about a man bsessed with worshipping his dead, is overall a good book. There are some confusing points in the book, mostly due to the fact that it was written in the early 1900's. The subject is very interesting though, and I really liked the ending. I give it 3 stars!!
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