The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

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January 19, 2013

A girl walks into a flat...

He ushered her into a slip of a hall hung with old prints. She noticed the letters and notes heaped on the table among his gloves and sticks; then she found herself in a small library, dark but cheerful, with its walls of books, a pleasantly faded Turkey rug, a littered desk, and, as he had foretold, a tea-tray on a low table near the window. A breeze had sprung up, swaying inward the muslin curtains, and bringing a fresh scent of mignonette and petunias from the flower-box on the balcony.
      Lily sank with a sigh into one of the shabby leather chairs.
      'How delicious to have a place like this all to one's self! What a miserable thing it is to be a woman.' She leaned back in a luxury of discontent.
      Selden was rummaging in a cupboard for the cake.
      'Even women,' he said, 'have been known to enjoy the privileges of a flat.'
      'Oh, governesses -- or widows. But not girls -- not poor, miserable, marriageable girls!'
      'I know a girl who lives in a flat.'
      She sat up in surprise. 'You do?'
      'I do,' he assured her, emerging from the cupboard with the sought-for cake.
      'Oh, I know -- you mean Gerty Farish.' She smiled a little unkindly.  'But I said marriageable -- and besides, she has a horrid little place, and no maid, and such queer things to eat. Her cook does the washing and the food tastes of soap. I should hate that, you know.'
      'You should n't dine with her on wash-days,' said Selden, cutting the cake.

from The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton

Reading Edith, finally!!


LauraC said...

I am also reading The House of Mirth and recognized the quotation immediately. I would love to step into that apartment, it instantly made me love Lawrence Seldon. What a fool Lily is!

Karen K. said...

I love House of Mirth, it's probably my favorite Wharton. I just reread Ethan Frome and it was still amazing. I need to read more Wharton this year.

Katherine said...

I love Edith Wharton! I have to space out my reading of her books so that I don't read them too fast. I may have to re-read House of Mirth, though, since the first time I read it was in high school, and I didn't appreciate it as much as I might today.

Bellezza said...

You say, "Reading Edith finally", and I say, "Hope to read Edith some day". At least you're there! Lovely excerpt.

Mystica said...

One I haven't read so it was new to me. Thanks for the intro!

Vintage Reading said...

I loved that extract. The first time I read HoM I was late for work because it totally absorbed me.

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