The House of Mirth

Crappy Cornelia paused. She clicked off the wretched FOX-News on the wretched TV, jabbing her cigarette nervously into the wretched ashtray. “See what I mean,” Crappy said. “It’s like The House of Mirth all over again. Is Bill O’Reilly or that Barracuda from Alaska doing her Loony-Moosey song & dance routine in New Orleans any different than a Wharton novel?” I paused, as usual, trying to hide my uncomfortableness with looking, then ogling, then staring incredulously at the startling shocking neverending oozing snail-tracks of snarky nervous intelligence slithering around on Crappy Cornelia’s trembling lips, dabbed at by her snarky little fingers with a little napkin, while all around the breakfast table coffee-stained books, crumpled reviews, and manuscripts that seemed to have a life of their own were nervously snaking around the glasstop inching around the tittering teacups and vases full of inky snakes dancing like in some horrible but fascinating Maria Montez Grade B Horror Movie like Cobra Woman. Crappy Cornelia was having a bad hair day. “I watched the Republican Convention as long as I could stand it, my dear,” she said. “And then I forced myself to watch even more of it. It was like that fascination one has with tacky horrible Ed Wood Jr. movies—sometimes the worst films in the world are the best. They’re so bad—they’re good!!! By being so deadly serious and earnest about winning and succeeding and conning the rubes—the Show had become a sleazy carny act, a Wizard of Oz replay, an Elmer Gantry rerun, a virtual vaudeville voodoo-hoodoo I Walked with a Zombie routine…” Crappy Cornelia was caffiene kvetching again. “But even more, my dear, what the New Orleans extravaganza and Gustavina Horror Show reminded me of was The House of Mirth—with all its snarky characters and snarky renditions of New York Society back then. You know, all those various & sundry misshapen snarky misanthropic minions such as tedious and prudish Mr. Percy Gryce, the social-climbing Simon Rosedale, the venomous Bertha Dorset who sets Lily up as a hussey on her yacht, straight-laced Aunt Julia who disinherits her and the whole long list of dreary men who could or would but won’t end up being her Husband… because she wants her Freedom more than Slavery.” I nodded knowlingly—hoping beyond hope that… “Ficton mirrors reality better—better than reality itself.” Yes, there it was. Her favorite all-knowing rather boring all-encompassing authorial dish of horrible putrid humanity… “Nothing can be more realistic than a Novel of Manners, my dear—it’s a living breathing snarky thing.” “Intelligent Design has obviously not only created barracuda, moose, elephants and GOP potentates for a reason—but Intelligent Design in all its haute couture wisdom has also created humans to be the greatest storytellers in the Universe.” “Especially when it comes to Novels and Politics. How we love to tell a Million Little Lies—instead of the Truth. But then what is Truth? How can Manners be Lies—if it’s all there is? Here in this House of Mirrors and Monkey See Monkey Do? Don’t you think so, my dear?” Oh dear, I said to myself. She’s worked herself up again into a tizzy. Nothing’s worse than a literary tizzy. It makes one dizzy—to be in a literary tizzy… “The reason that readers now and those back then hated The House of Mirth is simple—the House of Mirth is a Mirror. A House of Mirrors—an abysmal mise-en-abyme of social manners & shallow grandstanding and picayune peccadillos that qualify all of us as star freaks in a carnival of creeps.” “My dear,” I said to Creepy Cornelia. “Calm yourself…” I was getting nervous. You see, I was neurasthenic anyway—like Vincent Price. You know, The House of Usher? The House of Usher was like the House of Mirth. Kinda. I was beginning to hear the rats again—gnawing away back there behind the wainscoting…

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