Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Five best books on disgrace

Rachel Cusk is the author of the memoirs A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother and The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy, and of seven novels: Saving Agnes, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award; The Temporary; The Country Life, which won a Somerset Maugham Award; The Lucky Ones, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award; In the Fold; Arlington Park, which was shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction; and The Bradshaw Variations.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of books on disgrace. One novel on the list.
The House of Mirth
by Edith Wharton
Scribner's, 1905

The compromised woman has been a popular constant in the literature of disgrace: By the time Edith Wharton wrote "The House of Mirth," the Victorian novel had rather gorged itself on this horror. Wharton offers a more modern account of female dependence and vulnerability, one better suited to the social and material aspirations of her time. Wharton's genius was for showing the way a society processes its moral problems by destroying individuals. The monied New York that is her milieu here is wavering between the Christian propriety of the Old World and the amoral materialism of the New. Lily Bart is the victim, in a sense, of this vacillation. Her journey to disgrace is a brilliantly riddling one: She finds herself unable to marry cynically, and so she tries, feebly, to break through into a new independence in her relationships with men and in her attitude toward money. Half a century later she would have succeeded; as it is, she finds herself cast out and meets an end of singular ignominy and pathos.
Read about another book on the list.

The House of Mirth appears among Kate Christensen's six books that she rereads all the time; it appears on Robert McCrum's top ten list of books for Obama officials.

Rachel Cusk's Arlington Park is one of Adam Thorpe's top 10 satires.

--Marshal Zeringue