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Much like Auchincloss, Wharton writes of the upper class, well-to-do New Yorkers, although her focus in the late 19th century while Auchincloss usually focuses upon the 20th century period. Remarkably, the stories, which appeared between 1891-1934, for the most part seem fresh and engaging. Much like Auchincloss, Wharton was writing about her own social class and experiences, which lends a superb sense of authenticity and authority to her stories. The reader really emerges with a sense of what characteristics this environment manifested: the mores, taboo subjects and actions (such as divorce), the role of women, the overwhelming potency of social exclusions for those who violate its folkways, and how members of this elite social grouping were expected to behave and conduct themselves privately and in social situations. For example, one should never been seen taking a hansom cab to dinner--rather, one should be seen with their own rig. Almost all of the stories enchant the reader, since they often have surprise endings, but I found the final story published in 1934, "Roman Fever," to demonstrate how gifted an author Wharton was. But there are many more.
A word should be said about the high quality of the NYRB series. Each is produced on outstanding paper, with great cover art, and clear typhography. Each has a valuable introduction; this volume is introduced with a fine essay by Roxana Robinson (who has written a biography of Georgia O'Keefe). They are a pleasure to read and hold and relatively modest in price. This results in a fine amalgamation in this volume: a beautiful paperback containing superb short stories: what a combination!The New York Stories of Edith Wharton (New York Review Books Classics) OverviewA New York Review Books OriginalEdith Wharton wrote about New York as only a native can. Her Manhattan is a city of well-appointed drawing rooms, hansoms and broughams, all-night cotillions, and resplendent Fifth Avenue flats. Bishops' nieces mingle with bachelor industrialists; respectable wives turn into excellent mistresses. All are governed by a code of behavior as rigid as it is precarious. What fascinates Wharton are the points of weakness in the structure of Old New York: the artists and writers at its fringes, the free-love advocates testing its limits, widows and divorcées struggling to hold their own. The New York Stories of Edith Wharton gathers twenty stories of the city, written over the course of Wharton's career. From her first published story, "Mrs. Manstey's View," to one of her last and most celebrated, "Roman Fever," this new collection charts the growth of an American master and enriches our understanding of the central themes of her work, among them the meaning of marriage, the struggle for artistic integrity, the bonds between parent and child, and the plight of the aged. Illuminated by Roxana Robinson's Introduction, these stories showcase Wharton's astonishing insight into the turbulent inner lives of the men and women caught up in a rapidly changing society.
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