Edith Wharton on Audio, Vol. 1 contains a few of the many short stories she composed during her stay at The Mount from 1902 to 1911. The stories delve deeply into the issues she was most concerned with at the time – namely the paradox of balancing a life of integrity with the required compromises of conforming to a newly formed society. The Gilded Age brought with it new rules and regulations and the values therein often clashed with the ones of the more noble European aristocracy of Edith’s background.
In "The Last Asset", Wharton is at her best, depicting a social climbing mother who commissions a young journalist to retrieve her estranged husband from obscurity in order to present a facade of respectability for her daughter's immanent marriage.
"Autre Temps" follows the travails of a divorced mother re-entering society after being cut from various New England social circles for the purpose of supporting her daughter's marriage. Her underestimating of the mechanistic conformity of society leads her to an ironic fate.
In "Expiation", one of Wharton's funniest satires, "a bishop and his niece conspire to earn each other's fortunes, she by writing a mildly scandalous book, he by denouncing it from the pulpit; the book's title is that of Edith's adolescent melodrama,Fast and Loose." (from Edith Wharton: A Biography, by R.W.B. Lewis)
"A social climber hires a reporter to rehabilitate her reclusive estranged husband’s reputation; a divorcée tries to reenter New England society for the sake of her daughter’s impending nuptials; an aspiring writer and her clergyman uncle conspire to gain notoriety by her writing a scandalous book that he condemns from the pulpit. At first, these three stories of high-society misdeeds in the Gilded Age may strike the uninitiated as no longer relevant. But Wharton’s psychological insight, her apt humor, and especially the sheer patrician beauty of her writing transcend the quotidian references of their time. Of the three intelligent and expressive narrators heard in this volume, Tod Randolph stands out for her adroit and mellifluous delivery of the author’s artistic and thematic values." (AudioFile)
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A Splendid Listen