Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Writers can't tell if a phrase "sounds right" unless they have heard and read good English.No one knew this better than Lucretia Rhinelander Jones, Edith Wharton's mother.
In Chapter III of her autobiography, "A Backward Glance" (1934), Wharton wrote:"I was never allowed to read the popular American children's books of my day because, as my mother said, the children spoke bad English without the author's knowing it...."I remember it was only with reluctance, and because 'all the other children read them,' that my mother consented to my reading 'Little Women' and 'Little Men'; and my ears, trained to the fresh racy English of 'Alice in Wonderland,' 'The Water Babies' and 'The Princess and the Goblin,' were exasperated by the laxities of the great Louisa."If that sounds a mite too precious, consider a second reason why children's books are important: because they provide adventure and a safe place.
Psst! Did you hear?The hit Gossip Girl teen novels invoke Jane Austen, but racier and packed with product placements. Whatever, their heroine might say - they sell.
"The first novel in the paperback franchise, which debuted in spring 2002, was modeled on Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, says von Ziegesar, whose omniscient blogger offers tart observations of the world she inhabits.
"Rehab and college are actually very similar as far as status is concerned," Gossip Girl muses in a typical Web posting. "Getting into the best ones is highly competitive, but once you're in, you're in."
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Intermezzo will perform two contemporary one-act operas sung in English. The first, Menotti's "The Telephone," is a humorous look at love and that common household item, the telephone. The second act is "The Letter," by Brian Hulse and is based on an Edith Wharton short story set in 1905. Brian Hulse is the 2004 composer in residence for Intermezzo.
Too often, women's voices -- especially the voices of women whose lives were associated with domestic tasks -- went unheard, as Olsen noted. Edith Wharton made the point beautifully in her short story "The Fullness of Love" (1893), about an intelligent woman saddled with a dull, unappreciative husband: "But I have sometimes thought that a woman's nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes going in and out; the drawing room, where one receives visitors . . . but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps one never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes." Until the 20th Century, when women's lives were unshackled and their imaginations sought creative expression, the world missed many treasures because no one bothered to look.