Wharton’s books

Edith Wharton’s 2600-volume personal library, discussed in her autobiography, will return to her estate in Lenox, Massachusetts under a deal reached on Monday. Wharton scholar Hermione Lee has written that the library is “a form of writer’s autobiography.”

Speaking of Wharton, recently I came across William Lyon Phelps’ review of The Age of Innocence; it appeared in the New York Times Book Review in 1920, “this present year of our emancipation.” His asides about the state of the novel remain relevant today:

After reading so many slipshod diaries called “novels,” what a pleasure it is to turn the pages of this consummate work of art. The common method today of writing a novel is to begin with the birth of the hero, shove in all experiences that the author can remember of his own childhood, most of which are of no interest to any one but himself, take him to school, throw in more experiences, introduce him to the heroine, more experiences, quit when the book seems long enough, and write the whole biography in colloquial jargon.


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