Edith Wharton discussion

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Best Wharton Biography?

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message 1: by Laura (last edited Oct 16, 2010 07:13PM) (new)

Laura | 5 comments I was just curious about which biography all of you consider the best. I have tried to read Hermione Lee's new bio, but it feels like a pretentious, over wrought dissertation, and I found an error in it.

The Lewis biography is okay, but I have issues with his views on some of Wharton's life choices.

I read and have a copy of The Sexual Education of Edith Wharton by Gloria Erlich. It's a psychoanalytic/critical biography. While it does have some interesting inferences and interpretations, she makes some rash and uninformed conclusions. For instance, she states that there is a lot of incest in Wharton's works, and that in A Backward Glance Wharton discusses the comfort and thrills she felt while with her father as a little girl and while reading in his library. Thus, Erlich concludes, Wharton must have had an incestuous, sexual relationship with her father in his library. And she treats this information like a fact while interpreting Wharton's novels. While Wharton may have been abused, there is absolutely no way we can tell, and assuming something about an author just because they wrote about it is troublesome to me. Nevertheless, there is a lot of interesting information in this book. You just have to take it with a grain of salt.

I just started Shari Benstock's biography on her, No Gifts from Chance: A Biography of Edith Wharton, and am impressed so far. I definitely prefer Benstock's style, and her research so far seems very thorough and accurate.

What are all of your experiences with Wharton biographies? Which ones would you recommend? Thanks!


message 2: by Christina (new)

Christina Dudley (christina_dudley) I recently read Hermione Lee's *Edith Wharton,* and she also touches on the possible relationship between Wharton and her father. There's a passage from short story(?) or some other unpublished writing about a father having an affair with his daughter. Rather steamy!

Overall, the book was well-written but long.


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