House of Mirth

House of Mirth
by Edith Wharton
The House of Mirth was first published in 1905
Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey Meyer
Introduction, Notes and Further Reading Copyright © 2003 by Jeffrey Meyers
Note on Edith Wharton, The World of Edith Wharton and The House of Mirth, Inspired by The House of Mirth and Comments & Questions Copyright © 2003 by Barnes & Noble, Inc.

The House of Mirth is the tragedy of twenty-nine-year old Lily Bart who commits a series of egregious social faux pas that guarantee her downfall. Vain, a tease, pretentious, weak and bit stupid, Lily flits though the upper striatum of New York Society with a naïveté that is at odds with her upbringing. Trading in on her beauty and ability to charm the company she keeps, she flirts and snubs through parties on her way to… what? Unable to define her goals and discriminate to that end, she sabotages her opportunities on the premise of some vague morality. Though impoverished when her father is financially ruined and forced to live in a more circumscribed situation than what she was used to, she is nonetheless acculturated with the ways of the upper crust and thrives in the orbit of the wealthy. She knows the rules, the ways of the rich; and yet, she makes a series of incredulous decisions that defy not only convention, but common sense. 

Edith Wharton has written a novel about societal Darwinism. Mrs. Astor’s 400 of The Gilded Age evolved, and arguably devolved, as established families lost money and standing and, new wealth and those of a “certain race” crept in. Those who failed to adapt would find themselves consigned to the fringes and even “out” altogether. The exposition of this process through a number of characters in the novel is extremely well portrayed, but none more so than with Lily herself. Lily finds herself caught in a time of transition into the new society at the turn of the century and struggling to adapt to newer circumstances. The novel is written with Lily’s voice and perspective (though technically in the 3rd person omniscient), yet, despite being privy to the inner workings of Lily’s mind which might lend understanding to her modus operandi, the reader finds a curious lack of the survival instinct. 

If there is a failing of the novel, it would be that the reader can never come into full sympathy with the protagonist. Whatever you may think of Lily, as a romantic figure, tragic victim, insipid socialite… it’s nearly impossible to know Lily herself. Perhaps this is because Lily doesn’t have a clear definition of herself either. The reader, like her friends, never really knows Lily and it results in a series of misunderstandings. How can you have faith in someone you don’t really know and can’t get a handle on? As one of Lily’s erstwhile friends, Carry Fisher put it when trying to explicate Lily’s situation, “…but I never could understand you, Lily!” Edith Wharton doe not give the reader a special insight into Lily so we can only judge her instead of love her.

Other Stuff:

This book qualifies for a personal challenge of reading a couple of Edith Wharton novels this year: The House of Mirth, Ethan Fromme, The Age of Innocence and The Buccaneers. I am reading at least three of these novels (The House of MirthEthan Fromme and, The Age of Innocence) with @lithousewife 🙂

This book also qualifies for the What’s in a Name Challenge, #6 hosted by @BethFishReads at, as a book that has a title with an emotion (“Mirth”) in it:

This book also qualifies for the Mount TBR Challenge hosted by Bev at My Reader’s Block and on goodreads. I’ve had this book opn my shelves since November 21, 2012:

I did not read the Introduction, Notes and Further Reading by Jeffrey Meyers or; the Note on Edith Wharton, The World of Edith Wharton and The House of Mirth, Inspired by The House of Mirth and Comments & Questions.

I purchased The House of Mirth (by Edith Wharton; Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey Meyers) from Barnes & Noble in Medford, OR.

I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

What’s in a Name? Challenge #5: Wrap-Up/ Challenge #6 Sign-Up

Ah, it’s time for my post-prandial wrap-up in the What’s in a Name? Challenge! So far, I’ve read for five out of the six categories; but by December 31, I expect to have completed the entirety of the challenge. This past year, the six categories were:

  • A book with something you’d find in your pocket/purse/backpack in the title: 
The Scarlet Letter (by Nathaniel Hawthorne)

I read like a mad woman over the first week-end of 2012 and posted my review on January 3 and; unbelievably, there were others who beat me not only in posting to this category; but in completing the challenge! It was a great reminder that this is not a competition! There are no prizes other than the reward of reading! So yes, I still won! 😀

Anyway, right after reading The Scarlet Letter, I promptly set to re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale (by Margaret Atwood) and Nini Holmqvist’s The Unit, and then onward to listening to When She Woke (by Hillary Jordan; narrated by Heather Corrigan.) I also went on to read more of Margaret Atwood’s works (Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin) and later in the year, The Wordy Shipmates (by Sarah Vowell.) It should also be noted that I drafted several long essays about society and morality and women and stuff and, on this Thanksgiving week-end, trust me, you should be glad that I didn’t bore you to tears by actually publishing any of it 🙂

  • A book with something you’d find on a calendar in the title:
(by Margaret Atwood; narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNichol and Mark Bramhall; featuring music and lyrics by Margaret Atwood and performed by Orville Stoeber)

More Margaret Atwood! I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure I could have done most of this challenge just using Margaret Atwood titles (Snake PoemsThe PenelopiadMorning in the Burned House) except that I didn’t think of it until now. Also, I can’t seem to think of an Atwood title with a topographical feature in the title, so it would have blown the idea up anyway :-/

After reading Oryx and Crake, I was actually pretty mad at Margaret Atwood. In the Handmaid’s Tale, I thought the epilogue was a few too sentences too many; but with O&A, not nearly enough sentences were written. I mean, really, would it have killed her to write one more sentence at the end to give us a sense of, well, an ending? Well, she did write a sentence more. Actually she wrote The Year of the Flood and it answers all of the questions raised in O&A for which I was grateful. Maddaddam, the third novel in the series is slated to be published in 2013, and while I’m looking forward to it as an expansion of the world that Atwood created, I don’t need to read it to get a sense of closure.

  • A book with something you’d see in the sky in the title:

This review for this novella was the last review I wrote on this blog. It’s not very good; but it’s short. I point this out in the context of the next next two books for which I wrote no reviews:

  • A book with a topographical feature in the title:
Tortilla Flat
(by John Steinbeck)

I wanted to love this novella. I really did. Having been to Monterrey, CA, I loved the idea of having an actual place to connect with the setting of the book. And really, come on! John Steinbeck! Who hasn’t been moved by The Grapes of Wrath, The Red Pony and/or Of Mice and Men? Also, the jacket blurb offered something along the lines of an Arthurian tale: “Like the Knights of the Round Table, the dreamers who gather at Danny’s house share joy and fellowship, triumphs and sorrows.” Alas, the freeloaders, drunks and cheats who populate these pages have more in common with the crew hanging out at 7-11 with nothing to do than with the Romantic figures of Camelot. Seventeen chapters over two-hundred pages of post-war (WWI) vets who never quite get it together.

  • A book with something creepy/crawly in the title:
The Reptile Room
(A Series of Unfortunate Events #2, by Lemony Snicket)

The Reptile Room continues the story of the three Baudelaire orphans who wind up in the custody of Uncle Monty, a respected herpetologist. Lemony Snicket always forewarns readers that these tales do not end HEA, and yet I find myself once again surprised that this is in fact true! I think hope endures on my part because I know that these are children’s stories ergo they can’t possibly be this “angsty!” Regardless, the stories are clever and and certainly had me wondering what was going to happen next! 

So what’s up with that? Why didn’t I post the reviews for the last two books I read? And seriously, the review for From the Land of the Moon was pretty half-assed at that. Actually, if you’ve been following my blog for the past six months, you’ll notice that not much has been going on at all….

It’s time. It’s time to own up that I just don’t have it in me anymore as a blogger. Since July, a lot of things have been going on in my life, a lot of things have changed and blogging isn’t working out for me anymore. So as the crude but apt saying goes, “It’s time to shi!t or get off the pot.” On 12/01/2012, I’ll be closing the blog to comments. I’ll still be on twitter (@dogearedcopy) talking about books that I’m reading and, I’ll still be around to support other bloggers’ features as best I can. I just won’t be posting here so much if at all. It’s a sad but ultimately correct decision that I’ve taken way too long to arrive at; but now that I’ve said it, it’s terribly freeing 🙂

I love you all,
Stay Cool and Keep the Faith,

P.S. – What about the sixth book, “A book with a type of house or domicile in the title”? I have a copy of The Kitchen House (by Kathleen Grissom) sitting here and I fully expect to have read it by the end of the calendar year and declare #wain5 completed. If you’re interested in what I think about it, follow me on twitter… 🙂

P.P.S – Why, yes! Ys, I am participating in What’s in a Name? Challenge #6! “What?!” you say, “I thought you just said no more blogging!” Yes, it’s true. I’m going to be participating as a non-blogger by posting comments at What’s in a Name? Challenge #6 🙂

I’ve actually spent the past couple of days pulling down the stacks and sorting out books, finding the ones that would qualify for next years challenge:

  1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title: Deep down True, The Girl Below, The Diva Digs up the Dirt
  2. A book with something you’d find in your kitchen in the title: Loose Lips Sink Ships, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Breadcrumbs
  3. A book with a party or celebration in the title: A Feast for Crows, A Wedding in Haiti, Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness
  4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title: Burning for Revenge, Fireworks over Toccoa, Catching Fire
  5. A book with an emotion in the title: Baltimore Blues, Say You’re Sorry, Dreams of Joy
  6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title: The Book of Lost Fragrances, The World We Found, A Discovery of Witches

(Text captured from What’s in a Name? Challenge #6)

I’ve a couple books lined up for each category; but let’s see what 2013 actually puts in my path 🙂