I’ve spent the last few weeks reading Henry James’s 1880’s novels, and I’m in the middle of The Bostonians right now. I’m only about a third of the way into it, but clearly this novel marks the moment where James begins to recognize himself as a stylist. No coincidence, then, that this is the period where he produces “The Art of Fiction.” William James seems to have though The Bostonians could have clocked in at about 100 pages and lost nearly nothing, and on the one hand he’s right. There’s a lot of writing in circles here, and of a sort that lacks the minute but luminous repositionings of the late novels. Reading the sentences in The Bostonians, it’s as though we’re watching James revise his notion of what constitutes a sentence, a thought, the relation between the two of them.