Today would have been Edith Wharton's 151st birthday. It was less than a year ago that Jonathan Franzen simply dismissed the great author as being an unattractive woman, but I think Edith Wharton was a hottie, a badass, and an amazing writer. To Franzen's criticisms, I respond with a quote from the great woman herself: "“After all, one knows one’s weak points so well that it’s rather bewildering to have the critics overlook them and invent others.”
Didn't like Ethan Frome when you read it in high school? Though I loved it, I can see how you might think it's depressing! Try The House of Mirth or The Age of Innocence? (I'd recommend the latter over the former). Her short stories are also great! Try "Roman Fever" or "The Other Two."
In honor of her birthday, here are some reasons why I think she is one of the coolest writers on the planet (I also wrote my thesis on her in college, which might be partially why I love her so much).
She was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize!
For <em>The Age of Innocence</em> in 1921.
She had published poems in magazines by the age of 18.
Had YOU published poems in magazines by 18?
An adaptation of her writing won a Pulitzer Prize.
A dramatization of her novella <em>The Old Maid</em> won the Pulitzer Prize in 1935. She basically won <em>two </em>Pulitzer Prizes in her lifetime.
She was BFF with Henry James.
Birds of a feather flock together. I bet they had a lot of fun. I'm jealous.
She wrote a novella that is required reading in many high school English classes.
English teachers across the country make their students read <em>Ethan Frome</em>. That's pretty awesome.
She designed and built her own home.
She was great at garden designing and interior designing. She designed and built <a href="http://www.edithwharton.org/">her home 'The Mount,' which is seriously one of the most beautiful buildings we've ever seen. </a>Lots of weddings are now held there (hopefully one day that will include mine).
She was a good samaritan.
During World War I, she was able to go to the front lines of the war in France. She did relief work for refugees by setting up hospitals, hostels, and work rooms for jobless women.
There was a Vogue photo shoot based off her life last year.
Both Jeffrey Eugenides AND Junot Diaz <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/edith-wharton-vogue_n_1844117.html">made starring appearances.</a> When has a dead author <em>ever</em> been the theme of a Vogue photo shoot?!
She received an honorary degree from Yale.
<a href="http://public.wsu.edu/~campbelld/wharton/photo7.htm">Wharton received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Yale in 1923. </a>She was the first woman to receive such an honor from the Ivy League school. Many of her letters and manuscripts are now on display there.
The phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" might be about Edith Wharton's family.
Wharton was born Edith Newbold Jones. Her family, the Joneses, were a prominent, wealthy New York family. Some historians believe that this idiom may have been originally referring to her family<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keeping_up_with_the_Joneses"> (though there are also other guesses at to where it came from). </a> (This image is Edith Wharton as a child. What a cutie).
She was the first woman to receive full membership to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
This happened <a href="https://www.edithwharton.org/edith-wharton/biography/">in 1926. </a>