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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September 25, 2013

Edith and Boston

The next morning, when Archer got out of the Fall River train, he emerged upon a steaming mid-summer Boston. The streets near the station were full of the smell of beer and coffee and decaying fruit, and a shirt-sleeved populace moved through them with the intimate abandon of boarders going down the passage to the bathroom.
      Archer found a cab and drove to the Somerset Club for breakfast. Even the fashionable quarters had the air of untidy domesticity to which no excess of heat ever degrades the European cities. Caretakers in calico lounged on the doorsteps of the wealthy, and the Common looked like a pleasure-ground on the morrow of a Masonic picnic. If Archer had tried to imagine Ellen Olenska in improbable scenes he could not have called up any into which it was more difficult to fit her than this heat-prostrated and deserted Boston.
from The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton {Chapter XXIII}

Oh, dear. As funny and cutting as she is about New York, and New York society, Edith Wharton does not like my lovely city. And if that's true, what does it say about why she set this part of the novel here? Is it possibly because her difficult, disappointing husband was from a wealthy Boston family? I have been wanting to adopt her as a Boston writer, but there is just no thread connecting her to here.

I'm reading The Age of Innocence this month with our friend JoAnn. {This photo, found here, shows The Parker House, where Newland will go after breakfast, at about the time when he was there. JoAnn, are you here yet?}


JoAnn said...

Yes, I read that a couple of days ago and wondered what Edith had against Boston! It really is time for me to pull down the Hermione Lee bio I bought a few years ago...

I'm reading chapter 31 now and will switch to the audiobook for my walk this morning. Hope to finish by the weekend.

Audrey said...

Perfect... me too!

JoAnn said...

Had to take an extra long walk to finish the book. Oh, my - that last chapter! Switching back to the book and rereading the last two chapters tonight.

Unknown said...

Edith isn't one to hold back her opinions. If it's any conciliation, she didn't always say such nice things about NYC either. I think her husband's connection to Boston was partly responsible, at least. for her negative thoughts of Boston. I love The Age of Innocence and so much of Edith Wharton's writing.

Nina Kellock said...

Hello from Norfolk, England!
I found you via Lilac in May, and just thought I would add my own little comment. My favourite Edith Wharton book is Age of Innocence, though I enjoy so much of her writing. However, as with many other writers, I have to be in the right mood for her, I can't just pick up one of her books casually. A bit like Austen and Dickens in that way.

Thank you for visiting!

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