nolite te bastardes carborundorum

Don't let the bastards grind you down

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This is probably the coolest photoshoot that has ever been created.

All of the photos were taken at Edith Wharton’s summer home, The Mount, and all of the characters in the photos are supposed to be Edith and contemporaries who were part of her “circle”. I put in the original captions from the Vogue shoot*. I also love that these real people are portrayed by artists, writers, actors, and models, including Junot Diaz, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Elijah Wood.

I wish that they’d make a movie based on an Edith Wharton book where the costumes looked like these—based on the period dress, but not perfectly authentic so as to allow some contemporary influence. It’d be awesome if the music was modern too… think Moulin Rouge, or what The Great Gatsby movie could’ve been. Ugh it’d be so good!!!

If you’re a writer and haven’t read Edith Wharton yet, seriously drop what you’re doing and pick up House of Mirth or The Age of Innocence or even just a collection of her shorts stories (unless you want every piece of contemporary literature you read to seem like total garbage, because that’s what her writing will do to you). Her use of language is impeccable; every single sentence is absolutely perfect. I’m reading The Custom of the Country right now (I’m making my way through her entire collected works; I’m on C and literally every story is just home run amazing) and I have to imagine that she just sat down and these stories poured forth from her, because the idea of having to go back and edit these complex plots and interactions and crazy scaffolding of inter-character relationships and structure seems so daunting that I can’t even imagine that process would be possible. And her writing is so perfect that it does seem like she had these entire stories in her head from start to finish when she sat down to write them.

I guess you could say you’d like Edith Wharton if you like Jane Austen, Kate Chopin, or Virginia Woolf, because so much of the action happens inside of the characters’ heads, but I think she blows those women out of the water. Her subject matter is also somewhat unique because she was part of the high society of New York City around the turn of the century (think of the glitz and glamour of Gatsby, but just a little bit earlier) and was willing to write about all of the crazy social rules that people abided by at that time. I love reading about what Manhattan was like at that time… in one story there’s a young unmarried woman who very scandalously lives alone in “that artist’s neighborhood full of Bohemians”, the East Village, which is where I live. Wharton could write about lower class people too—her most famous book about “peasants” is Ethan Frome. Most of her books are love stories or involve strong women revolting against the institution of marriage—Wharton’s time in history was a strange one, as women were still married off as part of what was basically a business deal, but people also were starting to get divorces. So her books are full of lots and lots of scandal, and equally as many badass heroines. 

Okay, that’s the end of my gushing, but seriously, just reading her will make you a better writer, I swear. 

*What they didn’t note about the Wharton/James/Fullterton friendship in the captions was that Henry James was also in love with Fullerton, so the 3 of them may or may not have had some kind of ménage à trois (it seems to have been, at the very least, an intellectual one). If you find you like Wharton, you’ll like James too, as his work influenced hers and vise versa. James’ The Turn of the Screw is seriously the scariest book I’ve ever read.

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