Welcome to the weekly instalment of "Pagi-Nation," in which I spin round my room and pluck an unsuspecting volume off my shelves.
I must admit my heart groaned at this week's pick: The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. (I apologize if I have any Jamesian fanatics among my readership, but old Hank has never rocked my boat, lit my fire etc. Even 30 years ago, as an eager-beaver English major who delighted in ploughing through Milton and James Joyce, for heaven's sake, I'd find my head with a large dent in it from collapse on the library table after just a few pages of H. James. I recommend him to insomniacs everywhere.)
But this is the book the universe wants highlighted this week, faithful readers. And this is the phrase I plucked from page 402:
Madame Merle was doubtless of great use to herself and an ornament to any circle; but was she--would she be--of use to others in periods of refined embarrassment?
[The next time I'm embarrassed, I shall be busy wondering whether it's refined embarrassment or not! I suppose it all depends on whether one is carrying a handkerchief...]
When was the last time you were of use to others in periods of refined embarrassment? Do tell.