For the New York Times Style Magazine, Claire Messud reflects on one of Edith Wharton‘s most memorable characters, Undine Spragg from The Custom of the Country. “The fact that The Custom of the Country is entertaining — that it seems to whisk us, as readers, to a faraway time and to glamorous places — doesn’t mean that Undine Spragg’s dogged rise through the social ranks of the early 20th century is irrelevant to our times,” Messud writes. “Wharton’s clear but complex vision (whether Undine is ultimately heroine or antihero is not entirely obvious) follows her protagonist as she navigates ever more rarefied realms, from the dining rooms and opera boxes of Manhattan to the spas and châteaus of France, each with its own language and conventions, in search of the ultimate triumph — though what that may be, beyond enormous wealth, is never entirely clear, and remains just out of reach.”
Fanny Trollope, Anthony’s mother, taught America a thing or two about decency and feminism: her scathing pen wrote books about the excesses of American society and its alienation of women. Over at Bloom, Cynthia Miller Coffel writes about this trailblazing woman who should be considered “the patron saint of middle aged women writers.”
In the New York Times, a review of 2013 Year in Reading alum Olivia Laing’s new book, which delves into the alcoholism of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and six other famous writers. Among the biographical tidbits in the book: Tennessee Williams had a brandy Alexander every day when he lived in New Orleans.