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Daisy Miller
by Henry James

The general vibe I often get is that we either have to do what society tells us to and die, or refuse to do what society tells us to - and die. Yes, we must do two things: pay taxes and die. By Monday I had had enough of death and dying, so I picked up this tale about a flirtatious teenage heiress who cavorts around Europe raising eyebrows among her genteel acquaintances. The fashion-forward Daisy drags around her little brother like a pet Chihuahua, insults the hostess at a party she crashes, mesmerizes a dorky American student and goes on unchaperoned promenades with single men- the 1878 equivalent of making a sex tape. When her upper-class clique warns her she's compromising herself, Daisy shrugs them off. Is she foolish or liberated? Adventurous or vulgar? Innocent or any of its opposites? In fact, she straddles all these categories. James wrote this long before Paris Hilton exploited the boundaries between appearing calculating and callow, and it was refreshing to see that women have been torturing and confusing men with this ambiguity for generations. Who it's for: Hiltonologists, [not for me then] anyone interested in a portrait of a society where modesty was still considered a virtue, anyone who thinks nouveau riche starlets should die a painful death [well, maybe it IS for me, because that is what I think about Paris Hilton.

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