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09 February 2010

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I liked that Archer had to man up and get married. I thought the Countess was annoying, and I kept thinking "homewrecker!" Definitely on May's side the whole time, not that she was the most inspiring heroine.

I think a lot of the impact of this book has been lost over time. It's weird to think, though, that if I'd read it as a teenager I'm sure my sympathies would have lain differently.

I liked "The House of Mirth" better than "Age of Innocence" (both deal with upper crust, late 19th century society and its *rules*), though I thought both were too long despite the beautiful writing. "Ethan Fromme" is the best.

Speaking of teenage sympathies, I was in a discussion group for "Anna Karenina" and one women commented that as a teen she relished the *true love* of Anna and Vronsky, but that as a middle-aged, married woman she just couldn't see why she left her husband over such trivial things. I guess that despite "so many books, so little time" it's good to re-read some of our early-life favorites to see if we have the same reaction to them as we age.

I read and enjoyed "The House of Mirth" a couple of years ago, but have never been able to read more than a couple of pages of "Age of Innocence." I am now crossing it off my reading list. Oh and thanks for making me smile for the first time today.

"At the end of the day, I couldn't take the problems of rich people who have their health seriously."

Says the Jane Austen fan. Hypocrite!

Ethan Frome has dirt poor people, not annoying or tedious or tiresome at all. Honestagod I think you'd like it, though you're probably now so turned off by Edith that you'll never touch her again.

Jessica,
Yeah, that was another problem. I felt bad for May (especially in light of the ending, which I won't ruin) but I can't say I found her all that interesting either. I wonder what I would have thought of this one as a teenager. Lord knows I ate up "Wuthering Heights" with a spoon so perhaps I would have been more ready to give tragic love the benefit of the doubt.

Donna,
I love the story from your "AK" discussion group! (Talk about another book I've always wanted to read.) Chalk it up for reading: not only are there so many great books and stories out there, but how you feel about them can change in every stage of your life. Wild n' wacky. Although I did re-read "The Catcher in the Rye" the other day and loved it, again. (Noted: Holden Caulfield had plenty of money too. But his brother did die, which seems like actual tragedy to me.)

SWG,
So glad this one could bring a smile to someone's face; listening to it did not make me happy! I don't think you'll miss it, honestly. The movie annoyed the crap out of me too, and if memory serves, hewed pretty close to the novel, so you could just watch that and still save yourself some time overall.

Lesbrarian!
I knew you'd be out there ready to shoot me down! Please note: Austen's novels are not tragedies. Had ol' Edith funnied this one up a bit I wouldn't have minded...I LOVED "The Way We Live Now" by Anthony Trollope, and that was about rich people too. But at least it had a little of a twinkle. Maybe because, if memory serves, Anthony still had to work in the post office for a living.

If I go looking for poor people I think I might have to make it Elizabeth Gaskell's "Mary Barton" or "Ruth" before I head back to Edith. And one of the reasons I was so happy to be done with this one is because now I can move on to your suggestion of "The Historian"!

Thank you Lesbrarian! I was wracking my brain to find a suitable Jane Austen comparison.

CR, you will probably not like "The House of Mirth" or "Ethan Fromme" either. The tragedy in all three novels is the characters’ inability to break free of the social constraints and mores of their societies. And it is TRAGIC to not marry the one you love. But I want to cut you some slack; I hate D.H. Laurence with a passion and no matter how many people try to convince me otherwise, I am (still) angry about the wasted hours spent reading “Women in Love” and “The Rainbow”.

BTW, I loved “The Historian”. I don’t know if people will be discussing it 100 years from now, as we do Edith Wharton, but I had so much fun reading it.

When I was a proofreader, I was excited to proof House of Mirth. No mirth. I might have to look at it again sometime. I do not remember beautiful writing. Reading it was like eating cardboard. (I understand the inability of characters to break free of the social constraints--wait, that's it, the characters didn't really seem real to me. I was painfully aware of Wharton trying to make some point about the characters' inability to break free of social constraints.) I don't think I hate Wharton or Laurence, but Sons and Lovers, corrugated cardboard.

Why did you feel sorry for May? She was doing what she was "supposed" to do, and presumably wanted to do in order to keep her prestige and position.

Edith Wharton grew up among these constraints and had a pathetic first marriage. It wasn't until she moved to Europe that she really started to be herself. And of course by the time TAOI was written WWI had destroyed the age in which she grew up (the age of innocence . . . ).

Ruthiella,
No, I will most likely stay away from Wharton for a little while. I know society can be a real bitch, but "breaking free of society's rules" books have not traditionally been a big draw for me. I agree that, while I've tried to read D.H. Lawrence, I really couldn't get through him either.

Regarding tragedy, yes, I suppose it could be considered tragic not to marry the one you love. Had Newland simply not married anyone I would have felt for him. But, let's face it, don't most people have people in their past that they've loved and didn't get to marry? Does it make the rest of their lives tragic? Not really, and not if they go on to find someone else they can love and marry (if they so choose). Personally, I find it MORE tragic when good women (or men) simply can't find anyone they want to marry. But I don't remember much fiction about that. Anyone? Any titles? Diane Schoemperlen's "Our Lady of the Lost and Found," maybe, but that certainly wasn't tragic.

CR Fan,
Ha! "Painfully aware of Wharton trying to make some point..." That's good stuff, right there, and I say right on. You know what would have probably been worse, though? Proofing a book of critical essays about Wharton's "House of Mirth."

Sarah,
Well, I don't really feel sorry for May either. Or, really, Edith Wharton. Would their parents really have cut them off if they hadn't gotten married? Evidently it wasn't verboten to move off to Europe, which she did eventually anyway. Couldn't she have just skipped the bad marriage first?

I have a couple of Wharton novels on my TBR that I should get to one of these days. Not in the mood right now, though...

Bybee:
I wish you the very best of luck with them. I do. But I can't say Edith will be popping up again on my TBR piles for some time.

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