Skip to main content

Review: The New York Stories of Edith Wharton


Pages: 452
Original date of publication:
My edition: 2007 (NYRB Classics)
Why I decided to read: at the time it was the sesquicentennial of EW’s birth
How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com gift card, April 2011


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.

Comments

Karen K. said…
I have this, sadly, unread, though I have read some of the stories in other editions. Roman Fever is one of my favorites. I love Wharton and I think it's great that she's so good at both novels and short stories. Her ghost stories are some of my favorites.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…