Edith Wharton considered

The Custom of the Country reviewed and considered

It's interesting, I never thought of this as a particularly large book--but that may have been that almost nothing looms large in the immediate shadow of The Golden Bowl  which I had read before my Wharton spree.

The Golden Bowl is most interesting: it took me forever to read, it lingered in memory, and lingers in memory for years afterward and I recall it as being a sort of disembodied Opera.  My impression while reading it was that none of the characters ever really had a setting even when they did.  It seemed like six people suspended in some sort of bubble in the social continuum.  Things happened around them, but it was their own twisted interconnections that defined them and kept them out of the bubbling stream of ordinary human interaction.


  1. I hope to read Henry James next year.

    I appreciate the shout out.

    I've been meaning to ping you about O'Connor. I'm a third of the way through her short stories and am delighted & devastated by her prose.

    A Good Man is Hard to Find has nudged me down a path of feeling-inquiry, upon which I've been ambling for the last week or so.

    The River destroyed me. I haven't been able to pick up her stories since. I'm not ready.

    Are you familiar with these two?


  2. Dear Kevin,

    "The River" may be one of her hardest stories in some ways. Although all of them can be brutal--as you note in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." If you want a dose of unmatched Southern Gothic, take a gander at "Good Country People." Gothic, but absolutely hysterical--as with some of her other stories, if read in the right perverse frame of mind. "Good Country People" comes as close to the heart of the Southern Gothic as your ever likely to short of _The Violent Bear It Away_". But like Vlad in Waiting For Godot, you've already said, "I can't go on." I'll be your Estragon and say, "You must go on."

    Or, vice versa--don't remember the parts that well.



  3. That's been one of the most surprising discoveries in reading O'Connor, her humor - how she fuses the grotesque with the comic. A real accomplishment. Enoch and the Gorilla made me laugh out loud, which is just a little uncomfortable given the subject of homicide.

    Say, I have an idea for a dual blog post in which you and I share thoughts and reactions — a little back and forth — on one or two of her stories, something focused.

    Although it would take time, maybe a couple of weeks of e-mailing, I'd could be a fun exchange and might make for interesting reading once we post the result.

    An organic "conversation" can allow us to explore issues like faith and grace, setting and the natural world, loneliness and alienation, and so on.

    Let me know if you're interested.


  4. Dear Kevin,

    I would enjoy that very much. Let's do it!



  5. I've recently launched a job search, which is devouring my reading-thinking-blogging time, sadly. Is there a story (or stories) that you'd like to closely read? I'm current up through The Displaced Person, but find myself during odd hours of the day thinking about The Peeler, The Heart of the Park, and Enoch and the Gorilla (focusing as these three stories do on Hazel Weaver and Enoch Emery), as well as A Good Man is Hard to Find, The River, and A Circle in the Fire, which are very powerful stories that resist easy interpretation. Your call.


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