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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August 15, 2010

Sunday reading: Brave Edith

'The only reason assigned for the breaking of the engagement hitherto existing between Harry Stevens and Miss Edith Jones is an alleged preponderance of intellectuality on the part of the intended bride. Miss Jones is an ambitious authoress, and it is said that, in the eyes of Mr. Stevens, ambition is a grievous fault.'

-- The Newport Daily News  (1882), quoted in Edith Wharton: 
A Biography
, by R.W.B Lewis

Oh, Edith...There are other books that I want to read before I immerse myself again in Edith Wharton, but since I'm still hoping to take a trip out to The Mount in Lenox I thought I would see if I could re-read enough of this biography to take me up to the time when she built her home there. Happily, that was about 120 pages, so I could. (She has just started discussing architectural plans.) I found my receipt for this book tucked away in the back (March, 1980), and my copy is signed by Mr. Lewis (my professor in college), so the re-reading has other special pleasures. But what has struck me most is being reminded of how difficult her childhood and adolescence were; it's a very moving story, and a reminder that a life of privilege isn't always that. (I also didn't realize, or didn't remember, that Edith was very closely related to Mrs. Astor -- she was a first cousin of EW's father.)

I was very happy to see from my book browsing that there's a new and well-reviewed biography of EW written for children (or teenagers). ('I like to picture girls lying on the beach reading this appealing book and receiving its secret message: stop i-chatting and posting on people’s walls — it’s time to write your first novel!') When I was in elementary school, the school library had a shelf of children's biographies that I raced through, in competition with a girl one grade older than I was). I'm sure that reading these books fueled my love of reading, and probably of reading biographies. I've put it on library reserve so I can take a look.

I've been happily sidetracked from Edith and Emma (with a little Georgette Heyer on the side) because my library copy of Becoming Queen Victoria, by Kate Williams, came in sooner than expected, and I can only keep it for two weeks.  QV is another historical figure who unaccountably fascinates me, and I haven't read very much about the circumstances leading up to her becoming queen. Very, very good stuff. I'm finding that I like having a reading plan, especially if I'm not required to stick to it.

I hope you're looking forwarding to your Sunday reading as much as I am.

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