This volume gathers seven of the very best of Henry James's short stories, all exploring the relationship between art and life. In "The Aspern Papers," a critic is determined to get his hands on a great poet's papers hidden in a faded Venetian house - not matter what the human cost. "The Author of Beltraffio," "The Lesson of the Master" and "The Figure in the Carpet" all focus on naive young men's unsettling encounters with their literary heroes. In "The Middle Years," a dying novelist begins to glimpse his own potential, while 'The Real Thing' and 'Greville Fane' both explore the tension between artistic and commercial success. Replete with James's fully-drawn, complex characters, his trademark mastery of suspense, and his rich, insightful prose, these fables of the creative life reveal James at his ironic, provocative best.