THURSDAY

By the time Henry James died, in 1916, he had captured some of the most vivid examinations of relationships between men and women to be found in the English language—a feat he accomplished while remaining, through all his 72 years, a virgin. Geniuses, though, have their own methods of imagining, and Author, Author, David Lodge’s novelized account of James’ middle years, offers some clues as to how the old man understood the sexual volcanoes that exploded beneath the Victorian Age’s cold showers. In Lodge’s hands, James is a repressed homosexual—a “Uranist” in 19th-century terms—haunted by the memory of seeing a youth posing naked for a portrait before dying in the Civil War. When James “communes” with himself as an adult, he can only find “something fastidious in him[self] recoil[ing] from any thought of intimate sexual contact involving nakedness, the groping and interlocking of private parts, and the spending of seed.” James’ world is too polite for that sort of thing. And it is this condition that shadows every aspect his life: his side career as a playwright, his intense friendships with the caricaturist George Du Maurier and “she-novelist” Constance Fenimore Woolson, and his triumphant return to his true vocation in the late 1890s. Sexual martyrdom may be an all-too-simple explanation for The Golden Bowl and “The Beast in the Jungle,” but Lodge’s book does offer a bitersweet vision of one of the less dynamic inhabitants of the American Parnassus. Lodge reads at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, at the National Press Club’s Holeman Lounge, 529 14th St. NW. $5. (202) 638-7610. (Paul Morton)