Memoirs of Hecate County
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Memoirs of Hecate County

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  142 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Hecate is the Greek goddess of sorcery, and Edmund Wilson's Hecate County is the bewitched center of the American Dream, a sleepy bedroom community where drinks flow endlessly and sexual fantasies fill the air. Memoirs of Hecate County, Wilson's favorite among his many books, is a set of interlinked stories combining the supernatural and the satirical, astute social observ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 411 pages
Published June 1967 by Ballantine Books, Inc. (first published 1942)
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Erik Simon
I'm an Edmund Wilson whore; the guy's so smart it hurts. But this book, loosely fiction, I guess, but it's never quite apparent, is a departure from his criticism, and the central piece, "Princess With The Golden Hair," is one of the greatest, though harshest, love stories of all time. If you have a heart, that story will break it.
Feb 16, 2008 Nils rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All
"But now I even found myself seeing Imogen as the splendid embodiment of a type that I had not supposed I cared for but for which an undeveloped desire must always have been buried in the subsoil of my mind: the type of the American beauty. This ideal, which had figured in my childhood, in the pictures in magazines, as challenging and piquant but chaste, had bloomed later into something more sensual, with arched eyebrows and kiss-provoking lips, with deep eyes which, though still eyes of good fe...more
5 stars for "The Princess With the Golden Hair," a cruelly realistic novella about the "doomed" relationship between a working-class woman and the upper-middle-class man who claims to love her and yet can't conceive of marrying her. (I put the word "doomed" in quotation marks because this decidedly is not a story about fate or star-crossedness; rather, it's a story about socioeconomic pressures and the people who lack the means or the moral courage to stand up to them.) Despite the explicit desc...more
The main issue with this book is that there is a perfectly terrific novella stuffed in the middle of several increasingly insane short stories. I sort of wish the book was just the novella and his shorter works had been put somewhere else. The narrator is 'unknowable' and thus the short stories could all be narrated by him or by different people; either way they're all douche lords. Generally the book left me feeling that I had to read a whole lot of not-so-terrific drivel to get to the good par...more
I read this to get some Edmund Wilson under my belt, and because I understood this was his favorite work. In this series of almost unlinked novelettes, I know it was "The Princess with the Golden Hair" that got all the attention at the time and led to a court ruling that the work was obscene, but I hardly remember that piece at all. The one that stuck with me was the drawing-room tension of "The Man Who Shot Snapping Turtles." Wilson's stories may be classics, but they're also very pessimistic a...more
John Everett
Bogged down a bit towards the end with six or so pages of solid French (a fine language, but a bit pretentious as a literary device); a bit like running into Tolstoy's 25-page essay on the motive force of history at the end of War and Peace. Otherwise, pretty darn good.
E Smith
the guy at avalon bookstore looked at me funny when i asked for this. i'd read wilson's "the wound and the bow" for class. this is what you might get if fitzgerald wrote like dickens. there is a lot going on here, but also a good story about shooting snapping turtles.
This may have been Wilson's favorite among his own books, but it wouldn't be mine. Sometimes I think I'm a bit too trusting of what NYReview Books brings out.
Paul Jellinek
A risque classic from the 1930's that, despite some bright spots here and there, did not live up to its billing. Overheated and over-rated.
Michael Armijo
A Literary FIND that won't be for everyone...

On Christmas Day 2001 I was in San Francisco when I began reading this literary collection of six interrelated novelettes. I learned of the book while reading 'THE SCARLET PROFESSOR--Arvin Newton'. I was anxious to read it because the book was banned in 1947 because of its heatedly debated subject matter of descriptive sex, adultery, venereal disease and a mixture of the upper and lower class values of the time. My dear friend, Gloria Weiner-Freiman-C...more
I would totally love to read a 33 1/3rd style book about the writing and reception of this very mixed book.

I was crazy about the first three stories in the book, the kind of detached social critique stories. I felt that the middle novella, The Princess with the Golden Hair, tried too hard to make something interesting out of the weird boring position of being the middle class white guy and his delicate soul quivering. I don't know if that novella is classist or racist, but it's certainly weird....more
Judith Rapping
What's the opposite of "chick-lit"? The section on "The Princess with the Golden Hair" is a literate man's sexual objectification of the ideal American beauty. I'm sure it was interesting and risqué in its day, but frankly, boring now. I love Wilson's ability to draw you into his world, and several of the other stories in the book did that, but this piece annoyed me. It felt like the art historian analyzing one of his paintings.

I had hoped to get insight into the Imogen Loomis character since sh...more
I am really enjoying this book. What struck me the most about it was that I could get a real sense of the limitations both men and women faced regarding gender issues during the time period. I found the male point of view of this book very interesting and I was impressed by the author's exploration of the men and the issues they faced with women and class. I found some of his writing (particularily in the golden hair story) particularily alternating astute, poignant, and insightful regarding rol...more
Adrian Colesberry
A series of vignettes about New Yorkers in a nearby vacation county. As I remember, Hecate county is fictional, probably a stand-in for the Hamptons. The stories are unconnected but the tone and his writing provide the glue. The story of the man's affair with the young, lower-class woman is the best of them. This must have been what got him in trouble with the censors. His writing about sexuality is so frank that you get confused about what era the writing came from. It's not stilted or nasty or...more
Diane Secchiaroli
Just finished The Princess with the Golden Hair. Weird ending. At present I will be glad to finish the book.
Finished the book finally. Guess i missed something because I hated the book. Only thing that made sense was Updike's review which did make me think I HAD missed something. Guess I should have looked at the book during the time it was written and not by today's standards.
Only 3 of the 6 stories deserve praise. One of the 6, more of a novella really, "Princess with the Golden Hair" was pretty engrossing. "The Man Who Shot at Snapping Turtles" and "Glimpses of Wilbur Flick" were above average as well. Didn't enjoy the others. And watch out, the last story contains a good bit of untranslated French.
These stories are frighteningly familiar. The first time I read them, I felt like I was remembering stories that I had heard before. I don't know why.

They aren't nearly as erotic as the cover art would have you think.

Patricia Cotter
The Princess with the Golden Hair is the best part of this collection.
Bill Sullivan
great short stories of the south east and NYC. originally banned
Glenn Street
Memoirs of Hecate County by Edmund Wilson (1961)
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NYRB Classics: Memoirs of Hecate County, by Edmund Wilson 1 4 Oct 28, 2013 05:00PM  
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Edmund Wilson was an American writer and literary and social critic. He is considered by many to have been the 20th century's preeminent American man of letters.
More about Edmund Wilson...
To the Finland Station Axel's Castle: A Study of the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930 Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War Literary Essays and Reviews of the 1920s & 30s (Library of America #176) The Shores of Light: A Literary Chronicle of the Twenties & Thirties

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