I know. One should not use the words of Martin Luther King Jr. frivolously, especially during Black History Month. But I can't help it. Yesterday I finally finished listening to Edith Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence on CD, and all I can say about it is thank God almighty, I am free at last.
Well, okay, that's not ALL I can say about it. And my apologies to those readers who like Edith Wharton, and feel she can a) really tell a story, and b) wield language well. Those things may be very true. But I can't help it: I hate her. And I think I hate her because I hate her characters.
For those of you not familiar with the story, Wharton's classic is set in the 1870s (it was published in 1921) and concerns the upper level of moneyed New York society. The two principal characters are Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska; Newland is a prosperous and proper young man who is about to become engaged to May Welland, who is the daughter of another prosperous and proper New York family. Ellen Olenska, also known throughout the narrative as Countess Olenska, has recently returned home to the bosom of her family after leaving her scoundrel of a European husband. She is also May's cousin. Of course, Archer falls in love with Ellen, who he can never have (even if she were to get a divorce, it wouldn't be proper), and Ellen falls in love with him, but he goes ahead and marries young May anyway. Lots of portentous tragedy ensues.
Now. It may be true that the writing is beautiful, and after someone commented on that, I did try to listen more carefully to the words and sentences of Wharton's tale. But all too often the narration was drowned out as I listened and muttered "Newland, you're such a dick," "You can do better, May," or "Oh, Ellen, you're leaving forever, blah blah blah" (or countless variations thereof). Mr. CR was a little afraid of me, I think; he never likes to hear muttering coming from the kitchen. But I couldn't help it.
At the end of the day, I couldn't take the problems of rich people who have their health seriously. Good lord. Another fairly simple rule of thumb should be, if you love someone, don't get married to someone else. And if you do, don't expect me to think it's high tragedy. I'm just going to think you're a dick.