Edith Wharton – Contemporary Fiction
The Custom of the Country is one of my favorite Edith Wharton novels. The tone is masterfully sly, at once ironic and sincere in its portrayal of upper-class striving and ill-fated love. Though I’ve always wondered what it would be like if Wharton could fix her unsparing eye on the travails of courtship and marriage in 21st century New York. Would she recognize the place and the rituals of today? Without the insulation, social restraint and power the Golden Age upper classes had, the pursuit of love is an altogether different undertaking. While the privileged may have lost their hold on wealth’s exclusivity, I can only imagine how Wharton might portray the dilemma of today’s socially prominent woman—who according to one account, might be compelled to rely on the discreet services of a matchmaker. The added twist of course is the independence that now comes with being a wealthy woman, and with it choices a nineteenth woman could only dream of. It would no doubt give Wharton plenty of new material.