Tuesday, January 04, 2005

James Morrison at Bookslut, a well-known literary blog, reviews some of Edith Wharton's short stories and novellas:

The first woman to win the Pulitzer prize, Edith Wharton is best known for the string of novels she produced at the height of her powers: House of Mirth, The Reef, The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence. Those who have not read her might imagine, perhaps from the films of her books, or from her close and well-known friendship with Henry James, that her writing would be stately, stale and suffocating. This is completely wrong.

Wharton’s fiction is perceptive, black, funny and sometimes deliciously catty. Her neglected but excellent short stories are populated by adulterers, mistresses on the run, murderers, artists (some genuine and great, some pretentious and hilarious), embezzlers and the occasional ghost. A typical opening to one of these gems is that of "The Day of the Funeral": “His wife had said: ‘If you don’t give her up I’ll throw myself from the roof.’ He had not given her up, and his wife had thrown herself from the roof.”

Among the many short stories are also a number of excellent short novels, only a couple of them as well known as they deserve to be.


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