LITERARY CRITICISM ON WHARTON - This post contains a snippet from a particularly scathing and somewhat humorous review. It comes from the New Yorker’s website; on the topic Edith Wharton’s 150th birthday.
NOBODY LIKES EDITH WHARTON by Elizabeth Minkel - If a book is good, does it matter how we feel about the author? Likeable writers regularly create abhorrent characters, but can the same be said of the opposite? In this week’s Anniversary Issue, Jonathan Franzen tackles the question. “To be rich like Wharton may be what all of us secretly or not so secretly want, but privilege like hers isn’t easy to like; it puts her at a moral disadvantage…She was the kind of lady who fired off a high-toned letter of complaint to the owner of a shop where a clerk had refused to lend her an umbrella. Her biographers…supply this signal image of the artist at work: writing in bed after breakfast and tossing the completed pages on the floor, to be sorted and typed up by her secretary. We can’t write her off as completely awful, because she did have one potentially redeeming disadvantage: she wasn’t pretty. A one-percenter like Wharton invariably reads as the product of a long-dead era, one in which conspicuous wealth could pass without judgment.