- She was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize (for The Age of Innocence in 1921).
- She had published poems in magazines by the age of 18.
- A dramatization of her novella The Old Maid won the Pulitzer Prize in 1935. She basically won two Pulitzer Prizes in her lifetime.
- She was BFF with Henry James.
- English teachers across the country make their students read Ethan Frome.
- She was great at garden designing and interior designing. She designed and built her home ‘The Mount,’ which is seriously one of the most beautiful buildings we’ve ever seen.
- She was a good samaritan. During World War I, she was able to go to the front lines of the war in France. She did relief work for refugees by setting up hospitals, hostels, and work rooms for jobless women.
- There was a literary-inspired Vogue photo shoot based off her life shot by Annie Leibovitz at The Mount last year. In fact, we don’t know that it could have gotten more literary, with Jeffrey Eugenides (posing as author Henry James), Junot Díaz (posing as diplomat Walter Berry), and Jonathan Safran Foer (as architect Ogden Codman, Jr.) standing in as models. When has a dead author ever been the theme of a Vogue photo shoot?
- Wharton received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Yale in 1923. She was the first woman to receive such an honor from the Ivy League school. Many of her letters and manuscripts are now on display there.
- The phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” might be about Edith Wharton’s family. Wharton was born Edith Newbold Jones. Her family, the Joneses, were a prominent, wealthy New York family. Some historians believe that this idiom may have been originally referring to her family (though there are also other guesses at to where it came from).
- She was the first woman to receive full membership to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. This happened in 1926.
FROM THE VAULTS:
The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides
College wasn’t like the real world. In the real world people dropped names based on their renown. In college, people dropped names based on their obscurity.
Maurice, E.M. Forster
“I knew you read the Symposium in the vac,” he said in a low voice.
Maurice felt uneasy.
“Then you understand - without me saying more - “
“How do you mean?”
Durham could not wait. People were all around them, but with eyes that had gone intensely blue he whispered, “I love you.”
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
The trouble with modern education is you never know how ignorant people are. With anyone over fifty you can be fairly confident what’s been taught and what’s been left out. But these young people have such an intelligent, knowledgeable surface, and then the crust suddenly breaks and you look down into depths of confusion you didn’t know existed.
A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood
Kenny Potter sits in the front row because he’s what’s nowadays called crazy, meaning only that he tends to do the opposite of what most people do; not on principle, however, and certainly not out of aggressiveness. Probably he’s too vague to notice the manners and customs of the tribe, and too lazy to follow them, anyway.
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
For if the modern mind is whimsical and discursive, the classical mind is narrow, unhesitating, relentless. It is not a quality of intelligence that one encounters frequently these days. But though I can digress with the best of them, I am nothing in my soul if not obsessive.
Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami
You know what girls are like. They turn twenty or twenty-one and all of a sudden they start having these concrete ideas. They get super realistic. And when that happens, everything that seemed so sweet and lovable about them begins to look ordinary and depressing.
The Liar, Stephen Fry
“That’s alright,” said Hugo. “I’ve got some wine”
Which was about all he seemed to have. He poured out two mugfuls.
“Very nice,” said Adrian, sipping appreciatively. “I wonder how they got the cat to sit on the bottle.”
“It’s cheap, that’s the main thing.”
FROM THE VAULTS:
The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
“What you discovered about yourself in raising children wasn’t always agreeable or attractive.”
We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver
“Yet if there’s no reason to live without a child, how could there be with one? To answer one life with a successive life is simply to transfer the onus of purpose to the next generation; the displacements amounts to a cowardly and potentially infinite delay. Your children’s answer, presumably, will be to procreate as well, and in doing so to distract themselves, to foist their own aimlessness onto their offspring.”
The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
“On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide- it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese- the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope.”
The Lonely Polygamist, Brady Udall
“…Families are Forever, and wondered if the slogan was meant as a promise or a threat.”
Oedipus Trilogy, Sophocles
“Give me a life wherever there is an opportunity to live, and better life than was my father’s.”
Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens
“I am the only child of parents who weighed, measured, and priced everything; for whom what could not be weighed, measured, and priced, had no existence.”
Hamlet, William Shakespeare
“Like Niobe, all tears:—why she, even she—
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn’d longer—married with my uncle,
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!”
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Things That Remind Me Of:
The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides.
"What made Madeleine sit up in bed was something closer to the reason she read books in the first place and had always loved them. Here was a sign that she wasn’t alone. Here was an articulation of what she had been so far mutely feeling. In bed on a Friday night, wearing sweatpants, her hair tied back, her glasses smudged, and eating peanut butter from the jar, Madeleine was in a state of extreme solitude."
"Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects with “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well as for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.” I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever."
"Was there any novel where the heroine gets married to the wrong guy and then realizes it, and then the other suitor shows up, some guy who’s always been in love with her, and then they get together, but finally the second suitor realizes that the last thing the woman needs is to get married again, that she’s got more important things to do with her life? And so finally the guy doesn’t propose at all, even though he still loves her? Is there any book that ends like that?"
— The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides.
"Mania was a mental state every bit as dangerous as depression. At first, however, it felt like a rush of euphoria. You were completely captivating, completely charming: everybody loved you. You took ridiculous physical risks, jumping out of a third-floor dorm room into a snowbank, for instance. It made you spend your year’s fellowship money in five days. It was like having a wild party in your head, a party at which you were the drunken host who refused to let anyone leave, who grabbed people by the collar and said, “Come on. One more!” When those people inevitably did vanish, you went out and found others, anyone and anything to keep the party going."
— The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides.
Things That Remind Me Of:
The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides.