New York Observer Review of The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud.
'There are lots of ways to be miserable," Edith Wharton once wrote, "but there's only one way of being comfortable, and that's to stop running around after happiness." In the hundred years since Wharton published these words, Americans, especially the cultural elite, have not learned their lesson.
In New York City, the setting of Wharton's finest fictions -- and where "success" and "happiness" are often used interchangeably -- there's a clock tick-tocking by the bedside of every aspiring young writer or intellectual. If your debut novel hasn't landed by the time you turn 30, you're washed up. If you haven't earned tenure by 40, pack it up. You're through.