Edith Wharton was a New Yorker, a fact that was very evident in her novels. The sense of place is pervasive, as is the feeling of impending doom. New York high society is at the center of novels like House of Mirth; and the ending is far from positive.
While it’s possible to still visit many of the old haunts from our favorite writers, that’s not the case with Edith Wharton’s New York. As Rachael Revesz explains in The Independant: “In such an old city, there are surprisingly few relics that remain as they were during the prolific novelist’s time, and nothing, beyond a small red plaque at her childhood home, to commemorate the most iconic New York writer of the late 19th and early 20th century.”
While you might find statues to commemorate the past artistic proliferation of other New Yorkers in Central Park’s “Mall and Literary Avenue”… Perhaps we just don’t like to imagine Wharton’s New York (ugly and dismal), but it lives on through her novels.
What are your memories of Wharton’s New York? How do you imagine characters like Lily Bart as they walk through her New-York-infused novel? I’d love to hear your thoughts — please post below.