Saturday, October 29, 2011

Edith Wharton's Childhood Home

n the shadow of New York’s Flatiron Building, sandwiched between a burrito shop and a deli, sits the five-storey building where a young Edith Wharton spent much of her childhood reading in her father’s library.

The American author, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, was born and spent her childhood years at 14 West 23rd Street. However, the droves of people who walked by on their way to Madison Square Park every day had no idea. Nor did local historians or even the owners of the building until a walking tour leader recently discovered the fact.

Now, thanks to preservationist Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, a red plaque next to the modern glass entrance alerts passersby and visitors that the building housed, among other rooms, an extensive library that inspired Wharton’s initial curiosity about books during an era when a woman’s name was only to appear in print three times in her life – at birth, marriage and death.

Diamonstein-Spielvogel has devoted the past 15 years to commemorating more than 100 locations throughout New York’s five boroughs – the childhood homes, studios and workspaces of famous residents – through the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center’s cultural medallion programme. The programme was the latest in her four-decade-long commitment to preserving the city’s history.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Edith Wharton and Leonardo da Vinci

Edith Wharton first saw Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper during a trip to Milan when she was 17. It was to be almost four decades before she finally gave vent to the passion it had aroused. During that long interval, she said, she had "wanted to bash that picture's face". It wasn't the most edifying contribution to art history and she was careful not to broadcast it. Rather, she confessed her loathing privately in a letter to the art historian Bernard Berenson, who, as "the most authorised fist in the world", had just done her pugilistic business for her.

Berenson had published The Study and Criticism of Italian Art (Third Series, 1916) in which he revealed that, as a boy, he had "felt a repulsion" for The Last Supper. "The faces were uncanny, their expressions forced, their agitation alarmed me," he recalled feverishly. "They were the faces of people whose existence made the world less pleasant and certainly less safe." This description of the most famous narrative painting in the world as resembling a Neapolitan marketplace drew great opprobrium. One American newspaper compared it to an act of war, claiming Berenson had "torpedoed" Leonardo's reputation (this at a time when German U-boats were sinking allied ships). Another review argued that he had shown "such want of sympathy with Leonardo's work as is generally considered to place a critic's estimate out of court".

Ben Stiller Teaming with ‘Reality Bites’ Writer for Edith Wharton-Inspired Horror ‘The Mountain’
Ben Stiller
is set to reunite with Reality Bites writer Helen Childress for a new picture that couldn’t be more different from their last collaboration. The new project, titled The Mountain, will be a period horror story based on characters from Edith Wharton‘s novel Summer. The movie marks a sharp change of pace for Stiller, whose past projects have been mostly comedies. In addition, it represents a return to writing for Childress, whose Reality Bites was her first and last feature screenplay. More details after the jump.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wharton Birthplace To Get Commemorative Plaque

14 West 23rd Street

Join HDC and the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center for a ceremony commemorating the life and work of Edith Wharton, author of “The House of Mirth” and “The Age of Innocence”. Born in 1862 at 14 West 23rd Street in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, Wharton was a chronicler of New York City’s Gilded Age and trendsetter for her generation.

The Plaque is part of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center’s Cultural Medallion program. The Center, chaired by Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel (HDC’s 2011 Landmarks Lion), has installed almost 100 medallions around New York City to heighten public awareness of New York’s cultural and social history.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mindy Kaling on The House of Mirth
What’s a favorite book that you’ve read for school?
I would say probably House of Mirth. I read that in 9th grade, and that book completely changed my life. I love Edith Wharton, and my teacher Ms. Fox had us read it, and I just never read a book like that before, like a book that’s from the early 1900’s but felt so modern in terms of what the main character was going through.

That’s such a great book. I feel like it preceded so many modern-day books, movies, and TV shows.
Isn’t that book freaking amazing? I love that book. It’s so current. I think that’s what makes it so timeless. Listen, I freaking love Jane Austen, love Charlotte Brontë, I love stories about frivolous families, and you know, sisterly rivalries — I love that. But House of Mirth so describes the feeling of being trapped in a time of not wanting to get married but sort of having to, and having one chance out of it and the tragic side of that. Because in the Jane Austen books, they usually end up getting married, right in the nick of time, and in House of Mirth, it’s what happens when you don’t. And she didn’t even want to! She would have been okay not doing it. Anyway, I just love that book. It’s just so good.