Edith Wharton is known as a novelist but she was also a wonderful hostess, whose guests (including Henry James) remember her as “kindness and hospitality incarnate.” Kate Bolick has turned Wharton’s life-long attempt to master “the complex art of civilized living” into an entertaining guide, “The Guesthouse of Mirth,” just in time for those last few summer parties. Pair with Roxana Robinson‘s reflections on Wharton’s life and works, including the original The House of Mirth.
Geoff Dyer, lately everybody’s favorite literary critic, reviews The Stranger’s Child, and tells us why Alan Hollinghurst, “the gay novelist, might also be the best straight novelist that Britain has to offer.” Hear, hear!
“[L]et’s not pull punches — misogyny has disfigured how Dickinson’s story is told. We’re missing out on a fierce mind when we reduce her to a spinster perseverating alone in her room writing poems to the ether.” A new Emily Dickinson exhibition proves the poet wasn’t nearly as much of a recluse as we’ve been led to think, writes Daniel Larkin for Hyperallergic. Pair with this piece on Paul Legault’s English-to-English translations of her poetry, which “transports Dickinson into mostly fortune-cookie length snippets of contemporary English, a dialect spoken widely in urban pockets like Brooklyn, where increasing numbers of the highly educated and literary classes live, procreate, keep each other amused, and make their own cheese.”
Authors photos “defeat the purpose of imaginative literature, in general, and of much poetry, in particular, because they invite us to get to know an author by something other than her creations in words,” poet Stephen Burt argues. Pair with our own Edan Lepucki’s musings on the topic.
In a short biographical piece for Open Letters Monthly, Sam Sacks writes about the book reviewing career of Katherine Mansfield and the ways in which it “helped her build the writing muscles needed” to finish her masterful short stories. While some critics might take umbrage at the way Sacks characterizes Mansfield as “turning out deadline copy like an ink-stained Fleet Street hack,” his look into her reviews culminates in the realization that “the point [of reviewing books] is not to be constructive but to construct something of lasting value in the little space and little time you’re granted. Like all writing, it should be a passion, not a pastime. The point is to dazzle.”