Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The House of Mirth

“A novel of tremendous snarkery”—The New York Times

"Lily Bart is an airhead and I could maintain no interest in her."--Bart

“Speaking of airheads, my dear, it takes one to know one.” said Crappy Cornelia. Naturally I was shocked, simply shocked. But then, after all, Crappy Cornelia was named after the illustrious short story by Henry James. Except, of course, my Crappy Cornelia spelled her name with two “l’s” rather than with one like the Master. “Really, my dear, I said,” adding a little bit more juice to my hot toddy. After all it was dreary Monday, the dreary week had just begun and I had little to look forward to other than discussing The House of Mirth with a few online friends. Crappy Cornelia was a great fan of Novels of Manners—her favorite writers being Madame Wharton and Miss James. Her attitude was that manners were manners—and the same slobs, social climbers, back-stabbers, gossip-queens, male chauvinistic pigs, disreputable characters, blackmailers back then in Wharton’s novels were alive and well in American society today. “Wharton knew what she was talking about,” Crappy Cornelia was fond of saying. “Nothing’s really changed since then—if anything society has got even more crappy and snarky.” Edith Wharton stood out as the ultimate Snarkette Queen for Crappy Cornelia. Wharton had weathered the scorn and bad reviews garnered by The House of Mirth to go on and become the first woman writer to win a Pulitzer Prize. Wharton continued, with Henry James’ encouragement and encouragement, to zero in on nineteenth-century East Coast American upper class society which she knew like the palm or is it the back of one’s palm. You know, the thing you slap people in the face with at parties and during divorces and illicit tacky affairs. Crappy Cornela had all the first editions—it was almost like she had sucked up the snarky spirit of both Wharton and James and let her fingers do the communing with their dearly beloved snarky spirits. They seemed like normal hands—but the fingers did look rather wicked. Wicked, knowing and doomed to dish... “Funny,” Crappy Cornelia said. “This Bart character calls Lilly Bart an “airhead,” but my dear, I sense a rather stunning similarity not only with the same “Bart” names, but also with the same “airhead” vacuity.” Titter-titter, I said to myself. The idea of one Bart calling another Bart an airhead did sound rather, how should I say, somewhat vacuously airhead-esque. (Did I say that? I said to myself. Crappy Cornelia was a bad influence on me—but then so was The Portrait of a Lady and The Jolly Corner. Dear me, I never thought that... ) “After all,” Crappy Cornelia continued her rather risque rant, “The title of The House of Mirth comes from Ecclesiastes 7:4: “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” I nodded knowingly—it was too early in the morning to start snarking. But then snarking was always on Crappy Cornelia’s mind. After all, Crappy Cornelia was a writer and author of several snarky novels such as Twice Told Snarky Tales, To Snark or Not to Snark as well as the NYTimes Bestseller guidebook to internet publishing: How to be a Snarky Online Writer: A Guide to the Snarkosphere and How to Survive Snarky Chat Groups.

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