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The New York Stories of Edith Wharton

par Edith Wharton

Autres auteurs: Voir la section autres auteur(e)s.

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256381,317 (4.19)58
It was in New York City that Edith Wharton's literary and cultural sensibility was formed. The regular rows of somber brownstones, the inexorable codes of behavior, the solid layers of bullion on which the elegant social structure stood, all played a crucial part in the awakening of Edith Wharton's mind. Though she moved in 1911 to France, where she spent the rest of her life, New York continued to figure for Wharton as a fixed point of reference - the North Star on the firmament of her imagination - even as, over the years, her views of the city changed. In her early work the city was stultifying and confining, rigid and materialistic. Later, it took on a certain nobility as a place supported and dignified by its own curious codes of honor. This original collection, the first to focus on Wharton's relation to her native New York, shows the arc of Wharton's own response to the city that shaped her view of the world.A partial list of the stories to be included-- The Rembrandt- The Dilettante- The Other Two- His Father's Son- Roman Fever-The Long Run- Autres Temps...- After Holbein… (plus d'informations)
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This New York Review Books edition collects twenty classic Edith Wharton (1862-1937) short stories spanning the entire range of her writing career and also includes a most informative twenty-two page Introduction by Roxana Robinson, providing biographical detail and extensive social and cultural context for her fiction.

Reading through this collection was really my first exposure to the author and I must say I was quite taken not only with the clarity of the language, the subtle ways in which she developments her men and women and the sharp, nuanced observations as they engage in social interactions, but also the sheer power of her telling, most especially the manner in which the stories end. No wonder Edith Wharton is one of the most anthologized of American authors and several pieces in this collection are considered among the greatest short stories every written. Below are my comments on three of my favorites along with some concluding remarks by Roxana Robinson:

MRS. MANSTEY'S VIEW
“The view from Mrs. Manstey’s window was not a striking one, but to her at least it was full of interest and beauty.” So begins this tale, the very first Edith Wharton short story to appear in print. And what a story! I suspect nearly all of us have encountered what Nietzsche described as the “improvers of mankind,” the unending stream of land developers who tear out trees, shrubs, flowers and anything else standing in the way of “progress" - and that’s progress in the sense of more buildings, more houses, more roads, more of everything that can, among other virtues, add to that supreme virtue – money making!

Anyway, old, lonely Mrs. Manstey (her husband died and her daughter moved far away) is confronted with Mrs. Black’s plan to build a new multi-story extension thus blotting out the beautiful view Mrs. Manstey has enjoyed over the past many years at her window at the rear of her third floor apartment. The meeting and confrontation of Mrs. Manstey with Mrs. Black is so telling about the American economic mindset.

I’m sure the dynamics of money vs. community interests, including value placed on something as uneconomical as beauty and aesthetic appreciation has played itself out thousands of time since the publication of this short story. And what does Mrs. Manstey actually do to combat the extension? Never underestimate a lonely, old lady who is about to lose her one last connection to life and beauty!



THE REMBRANDT
A tale of conflicting values, where the unnamed narrator, one of the top purchasers for a leading New York museum, is forced to make hard decisions. Here he is during his first visit to the apartment of a Mrs. Fontage, an older lady desperately in need of money, considering selling her beloved Rembrandt picture: “The critical moment was upon me. To escape the challenge of Mrs. Fontage’s brilliant composure I turned once more to the picture. If my courage needed reinforcement, the picture amply furnished it. Looking at that lamentable canvas seemed the surest way of gathering strength to denounce it; but behind me, all the while, I felt Mrs. Fontage’s shuddering pride drawn up in a final effort of self-defense. I hated myself for my sentimental perversion of the situation. Reason argued that it was more cruel to deceive Mrs. Fontage than to tell her the truth; but that merely proved the inferiority of reason to instinct in situations involving any concession to the emotions.”

Mrs. Fontage is but one person in the equation. There is also Eleanor Copt, his cousin who introduced him to this lady in the first place, Eleanor’s rich friend and last but hardly least, Crozier, a key member of the museum’s influential committee. One of the most sophisticated stories you will ever read about weighing human emotions on one side and individual financial responsibility on the other.



ROMAN FEVER
A conversation between two lifelong friends, Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley, both older widows, both joining their daughters on holiday, as they sit outside on a terrace overlooking the city of Rome. At one point, Edith Wharton writes: “Yes; being the Slade’s widow was a dullish business after that. In living up to such a husband all her faculties had been engaged: now she has only her daughter to live up to, for the son who seemed to have inherited his father’s gifts had died suddenly in boyhood.”

Turns out, Mrs. Slade has something of an ax to grind, that is, she has a decided tendency to play the game of one-upmanship and she simply can’t check herself in establishing her superiority over her friend Mrs. Ansley. I wouldn’t want to say anything further about the story (it is simply too wonderful to spoil a reader's own experience); rather, I will note the more I read, the more I was pulled in. And the ending – no question, this must be one of the strongest ending sentences a short story writer has ever penned. Wow! What a phenomenal punch!



As a special tribute to Roxana Robinson's extraordinary Introduction, I’ll conclude with two of her quotes:

“She was deeply committed to the concept of a moral order, though she recognized the complexities implied by its rule. She used the world into which she was born – the inner circle of Old New York – to create her own unique and individual landscape, as all great writers do. Wharton’s characters are flawed and struggling, weak and noble, loving and heartless. Her New York is diverse, precise, and entirely her own. It is a place of beauty, complication, and authenticity.”

“The twenty stories collected here show Edith Wharton’s world as she knew it. They show the crystalline brilliance of her literary style; they show the intellectual reach and complexity of her mind. The show the courage, depth, and compassion of her heart. They show her to be one of our greatest short-story writers.”

( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
The stories in this collection all show the hand of a master – the vivid and nuanced prose, the sharp descriptions of setting, characters and the social milieu. Sometimes I read short story collections rather fitfully, but with this one, I read large chunks at a time like a novel. Wharton draws you in almost immediately with her strong writing. The stories move from her very early ones to the late masterpiece “Roman Fever” and it is interesting to see the progression. Some of the stories have awkward time or plot shifts and there is a tendency to rely on predictable or melodramatic twists. However, they are all worth reading for the superb writing and depictions of places and people.

As in her best known novels, Wharton often depicts the cloistered world of Old New York – a bygone time and place based on family, reputation and repression. Wharton’s life influenced many of the stories. Her husband, Teddy Wharton, was much older than her and eventually became chronically ill – this is reflected in the nightmarish “A Journey”, about a woman who is taking her terminally ill husband back home. The claustrophobic train ride soon become intolerable and the woman’s feverish musings are well-done. Two other subjects that personally affected Wharton show up frequently – the struggles of the artist (especially the conflict between staying true to art vs. selling out) and divorce. Some of the stories show social catastrophes and covertly vicious triumphs, again as in her well-known novels, but a number of the stories have a semi-comic tone. However, two of the best are the excruciatingly painful gems “The Dilettante” and “Autres Temps…”. There are also a number of sympathetic depictions of older women, even in the early stories – the very first one, “Mrs. Manstey’s View”, shows one such woman, forgotten by the world but still able to enjoy what she has.

Some of the stories about divorce (and artists) had comic touches – “The Other Two” has a man married to a twice-divorced woman thrown into the company of her two exes. This story doesn’t suggest he’s made a horrible mistake – instead, it ends on a note of bemused acceptance. Divorce was an institution that changed over the course of Wharton’s lifetime, from an unmentionable horror to something that was almost acceptable. “Autres Temps…” shows this, as a woman who was shunned after her divorce rushes to the aid of her newly divorced daughter only to find that the times have changed. In this one, the author skillfully portrays the painful life of a pariah from society. Divorce became more common, but some were even farther out – “The Reckoning” has a divorced woman as an advocate for free love but she soon regrets it. This one fell a little flat – the woman’s relationship was too generally described. Some divorces left the woman alone and shamed, as in “Autres Temps…” but “The Long Run” looks at the other side – a man who chose not to break up the marriage of the woman he loved. His ending can hardly be envied.

The divorced or married woman who became another man’s mistress is also an unenviable role – illustrated in “The Dilettante” and “Diagnosis”. The main character in “Diagnosis” is proud of the fact that he has remained free and unmarried while still receiving emotional support from his divorced mistress. He has vague plans to marry some young innocent thing someday but these are disrupted by a diagnosis of a terminal illness. The same sort of character is “The Dilettante” but it becomes clear that his former relationship with his mistress was almost one of emotional abuse. He gets some comeuppance but from this tangled situation there are really no winners.

Even outwardly happy marriages get the side-eye from Wharton. The seemingly solid marriage at the center of “The Quicksand” is a contrast to a quarrelling pair of lovers but the truth about the marriage is considerably darker. The great “Roman Fever” compares two solid marriages, both acceptable to good New York society. The whole story is a conversation between the two widows on a comfortable terrace in Rome, but both end up reevaluating their lives. Wharton’s depiction is also a perfect example of “frenemies”. “Pomegranate Seed” starts out looking like the other stories – the second wife starts to suspect her happiness with her husband is only on the surface when he starts receiving some mysterious letters – but ends up in a completely different place. ( )
4 voter DieFledermaus | Jul 1, 2013 |
The New York Stories of Edith Wharton is a collection of 20 stories that Edith Wharton wrote over the course of her career. The stories are presented in the order in which they were published, so you get to see how Wharton’s style grew over time. Her stories cover a wide range of people and places, from industrialists to artists and from ballrooms to tenements.

In her novels, such as The House of Mirth or The Age of Innocence, Wharton tends to focus on the upper classes of turn-of-the-century New York, but what I like about her short stories is that she focuses on a wide range of people. Many of the stories have been published in other volumes (ie, “Pomegranate Seed” also appears in the Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton), but what I like about this collection really shows how she matured as a writer, from her first published story, “Mrs. Manstey’s View” to “Roman Fever,” her last.

The collection also showcases how New York, and in a larger sense, American, society changed between the mid-19th and early 20th centuries. Although Edith Wharton frequently satirizes the society of which she knew so much, there’s still a deep love and respect for it—after all, Wharton wrote what she knew the most about. According to the Introduction, “Edith learned the rules of this formal, restrained world, but she felt the presence of another unacknowledged one that seethed around her like an invisible mist. This was the one of emotions and ideas.” The conflict between the world she grew up in and the second is at the heart of these stories. I was interested in watching how many of her characters struggle with being an outsider or having an obsession with money, both qualities held Woburn in “A Cup of Cold Water.” In all, a fine collection of stories. ( )
1 voter Kasthu | Mar 4, 2012 |
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Nom de l'auteur(e)RôleType d'auteurŒuvre ?Statut
Edith Whartonauteur(e) principal(e)toutes les éditionscalculé
Robinson, RoxanaDirecteur de publicationauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé
Robinson, RoxanaIntroductionauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé

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It was in New York City that Edith Wharton's literary and cultural sensibility was formed. The regular rows of somber brownstones, the inexorable codes of behavior, the solid layers of bullion on which the elegant social structure stood, all played a crucial part in the awakening of Edith Wharton's mind. Though she moved in 1911 to France, where she spent the rest of her life, New York continued to figure for Wharton as a fixed point of reference - the North Star on the firmament of her imagination - even as, over the years, her views of the city changed. In her early work the city was stultifying and confining, rigid and materialistic. Later, it took on a certain nobility as a place supported and dignified by its own curious codes of honor. This original collection, the first to focus on Wharton's relation to her native New York, shows the arc of Wharton's own response to the city that shaped her view of the world.A partial list of the stories to be included-- The Rembrandt- The Dilettante- The Other Two- His Father's Son- Roman Fever-The Long Run- Autres Temps...- After Holbein

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NYRB Classics

2 éditions de ce livre ont été publiées par NYRB Classics.

Éditions: 1590172485, 1590174364

 

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