Reading Journal

What I'm reading

Monday, July 28, 2008

The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton

Wow, what an incredible book! Highly recommended. Lily is a complex person; initially you think of her as a money-grubbing social climber but by the end you really come to admire her.

Lily Bart's mother:
Mrs. Bart was famous for the unlimited effect she produced on limited means; and to the lady and her acquaintances there was something heroic in living as though one were much richer than one's bankbook denoted.

Lily wasn't merely after money. She had a sensitive nature that was attuned to beauty... in some ways similar to Dorian Gray.
She was fond of pictures and flowers, and of sentimental fiction, and she could not help thinking that the possession of such tastes ennobled her desire for worldly advantages.

Selden is somewhat of a Stoic:
"Freedom? Freedom from worries?"

"From everything -- from money, from poverty, from ease and anxiety, from all the material accidents. To keep a kind of republic of the spirit -- that's what I call success."

Funny comment on the rustic wedding of an extremely wealthy couple:
It was the "simple country wedding" to which guests are conveyed in special trains, and from which the hordes of the uninvited have to be fended off by the intervention of the police. While these sylvan rites were taking place, in a church packed with fashion and festooned with orchids, the representatives of the press were threading their way, note-book in hand, through the labyrinth of wedding presents.

Lily's aunt was a fastidious person:
She "went through" the linen and blankets in the precise spirit of the penitent exploring the inner folds of conscience; she sought for moths as the stricken soul seeks for lurking infirmities.

Lily's sensitive nature gave her a sense of pride:
The cruise itself charmed her as a romantic adventure. The cruise itself charmed her as a romantic adventure. She was vaguely touched by the names and scenes amid which she moved, and had listened to Ned Silverton reading Theocritus by moonlight, as the yacht rounded the Sicilian promontories, with a thrill of the nerves that confirmed her belief in her intellectual superiority.

Lily comes to a final understanding of the values she'd been raised upon.
That was the feeling which possessed her now -- the feeling of being something rootless and ephemeral, mere spindrift of the whirling surface of existence, without anything to which the poor little tentacles of self could cling before the awful flood submerged them. And as she looked back she saw that there had never been a time when she had had any real relation to life. Her parents too had been rootless, blown hither and thither on every wind of fashion, without any personal existence to shelter them from its shifting gusts. She herself had grown up without any one spot of earth being dearer to her than another."


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