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Weekend Miscellany

A few things I am excited about right now...

I can't let the week go by without mentioning Edith Wharton's birthday on January 24.  This year is the 150th anniversary of her birth.  There is probably no American writer who gets mentioned more often than Edith Wharton, especially in terms of old New York.

For example, the enchanting new book "Rules of Civility" by Amor Towles ( a love letter to New York) has a lovely tribute to Edith Wharton.  My book club just discussed it yesterday and loved it!  As the characters celebrate New Year's eve the narrator describes the scene:

"Powdered with snow, Washington Square looked as lovely as it could.  The snow had dusted every tree and gate. The once tony brownstones that on summer days now lowered their gaze in misery were lost for the moment in sentimental memories.  At No. 25, a curtain on the second floor was drawn back and the ghost of Edith Wharton looked out with shy envy.  Sweet, insightful, unsexed, she watched the three of us pass wondering when the love that she had so artfully imagined would work up the courage to rap on her door.  When would it present itself at an inconvenient hour, insist upon being admitted, brush past the butler and rush up the Puritan staircase urgently calling her name?
Never, I'm afraid."


The Fifth Avenue Hotel, center of the gilded age social scene
Photo from the New York Times

Th New York Times recently featured a long and fascinating article with many great photos about Edith Wharton in honor of her 150th birthday.  The author of this excellent article entitled "Tales of New York," with a subtitle: "For Edith Wharton's Birthday, Hail Ultimate Social Climbers" writes about the New York heiresses of that time and the locations "where Edith and the gilded girls roamed," including the photo above.  What a great piece about the world in which Edith lived.


The Mount, Edith Wharton's House in Lenox, Massachusetts

If you go to the website at The Mount, Edith's home in Lenox, Massachusetts, you will find many articles about and tributes to Edith Wharton in celebration of her big birthday.  One interesting piece of information I read was that Julian Fellowes cited Wharton's "The Custom of the Country" as one of the influences on "Downton Abbey."  In that book Edith was writing about American girls going to England in the late nineteenth century and marrying English aristocrats. I think you will enjoy this website as it gives so many examples of the influence of Edith Wharton on writers and filmmakers.


I seem to be on a roll right now with some really good books.  I just finished "Old Filth" and "The Man in the Wooden Hat" by the English writer Jane Gardam.  Old Filth is the nickname of the main character, whose real name is Edward Feathers.  "Filth" is an acronym for "Failed in London, Try Hong Kong."  Feathers is an English solicitor and judge who made a great success in Hong Kong and has retired in his later years to Dorset, England with his wife Betty.  He is an elderly man who is looking back on his life and his story is fascinating, funny and heartbreaking.  The second book "The Man in the Wooden Hat" is the same story, but told from the wife's perspective.  What a portrait of a marriage! You are in for a treat.  I loved these books and recommend them both, but read "Old Filth" first.


"Midnight in Paris"
Photo from the New York Times

The Academy Award nominations just came out and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" got four nominations!  I was thrilled because "Midnight in Paris" is my favorite movie of the year.   There is a great article in today's New York Times, "Unlikely Routes Lead to Oscars," about how this movie almost didn't get made.  One producer wondered who would want to see this film since nobody even knows who Gertrude Stein is anymore.  But Woody argued that you don't really need to know those people to appreciate the film.  The film turned out to be his most successful.  Let's hope it wins some Oscars!


So many people have been saying good things about the new biography of Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin.  I just started it and I can tell I am going to be swept away by this one.  


What are you up to this weekend?  I would love to hear what books you are reading and which movies you have seen lately.  I'm going to the Getty Center this weekend to see the new art exhibition "Pacific Standard Time."  We are having gorgeous weather in Los Angeles and it should be a beautiful day up at the Getty with its amazing views of the city.  Have a great weekend!

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