Feast of Words

Feast of Words : Triumph of Edith Wharton

3.66 (18 ratings by Goodreads)
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A biographical account of Wharton's against-the-odds development as an important novelist accompanies detailed readings of her major novels and of her unpublished fictions and autobiographical recollectionsshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 464 pages
  • 152.4 x 226.06 x 33.02mm | 839.14g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 12ill.
  • 0195021177
  • 9780195021172

Review Text

This valuable study of one of America's foremost novelists is not strictly a biography, as was R. W. B. Lewis' Edith Wharton (1975). But the author does probe deeply into Wharton's life to seek the psychological substratum in which her work had its emotional roots. She not only shows how Wharton's novels and short stories were shaped by the voracious, unappeased hungers of her childhood, but also how in making fiction - "a feast of words" - she found an emotional balance that enabled her to grow as a writer and a woman. It was quite a feat: not even men - let alone women - of Wharton's class in turn-of-the-century New York and Newport were encouraged to work. She was faced with the additional barrier of her emotional difficulties, which shadowed a dozen years of her young married life with intermittent attacks of fatigue, nausea, and anxiety that intensified into a nervous collapse. Out of all this came the author of such superlative novels as The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome, The Custom of the Country, and The Age of Innocence, books for which Cynthia Wolff whets the appetite with her detailed exegeses. It was Wolff who discovered the "unpublishable" pornographic fragment Wharton wrote about the passion between a father and his daughter. Presented as an appendix in Lewis' biography, it reappears here for the light it throws on the way Wharton came to terms with sexuality and its repression. Excellent on its own terms as a psychological critique, A Feast of Words neglects - perhaps necessarily - a social assessment of the novels. One could ask, for example, whether the fear of revolutionary energy expressed in Wharton's historical novel, The Valley of Decision represented only her terror of her suppressed longings, or whether it also reflected the views of her rentier class at a time of industrial unrest. But that would need another book. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

18 ratings
3.66 out of 5 stars
5 33% (6)
4 22% (4)
3 28% (5)
2 11% (2)
1 6% (1)
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