May 4, 2007: Edith Wharton and The Age of Celebri-spiraling
I avoided news and celebrity drivel today-no minor feat. Instead, I turned my attention to the life of Edith Wharton, arguably one of the great 20th century writers on culture, manners, and social convention. I spent quite a while skimming An American Original: A comprehensive life of Edith Wharton, the sharp-eyed chronicler of high society by Hermione Lee.
What would Ms. Wharton think of today's celebrity-driven culture, where fame eclipses all rules of social engagement? Certainly, as the well-brought up woman who married then divorced in scandal, she faced her own contradictions, as the book duly notes:
As a result, secrecy, privacy, a sense of being a misfit or foundling child became one of her main subjects, along with a sense of the tragedy of lives unfulfilled, revealing her idea of her father, and perhaps of herself, at least until her sexual awakening 20 years after her marriage.
Well, that's certainly a lifestyle that today's celebs can get behind! If she'd been alive today, perhaps she would have written The Age of Celebri-spiraling. That's why this quote from Edith Wharton is particularly prescient, while shaking up her image a bit:
'If only we'd stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time."