Saturday, June 18, 2005

Edith Wharton. Blogs. Analysis.

ethan frome can teach bloggers much about writing: book cover design by lee wade, illustration by Judy Perderson

Edith Wharton teaches bloggers lessons in writing, if we read her from the blogological perspective.

What can a blogger learn from Edith Wharton?

edith wharton ocw mit edu

All classic authors can teach bloggers much.

From Edith Wharton:


Ethan Frome
begins suddenly, gets right to the point, and instills suspense from the first page, within the first few paragraphs.

No elaborate set up. No long-winded descriptions of scenary or clothing. No emotional musings. At least not yet, maybe not ever. Entering a mystery is a mysterious thing to do.

Due to my training, I press against and peer into the mystery of her textualizations, via a deconstructive evaluation, starting with the last paragraph (broken into chunks for easy reading) of her Introduction for, and then abruptly stopping only one paragraph into, plus fragments from a random page in, her famous novel Ethan Frome.

edith wharton Student Companion to

"I have written this brief analysis--the first I have ever published of any of my books--because, as an author's introduction to his work, I can imagine nothing of value to his readers except a statement as to why he decided to attempt the work in question, and why he selected one form rather than another for its embodiment.

These primary aims, the only ones that can be explicitly stated, must, by the artist, be almost instinctively felt and acted upon before there can pass into his creation that imponderable something more which causes life to circulate in it, and preserves it for a little from decay."

--Edith Wharton, from Introduction to Ethan Frome

ethan frome american literature com


by Edith Wharton (1911)

[1st paragraph]

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.



Edith Wharton's novel Ethan Frome had a huge impact on me when I was a teenager.

Its bleached bleak cynicism existentially reverberating from start to finish, as its spare economy and severe spartan perspective glared out:

she quavered


crazy angles

change and freedom

little enclosure

continuance and stability

clutched his sleeve to steady

...are word chunks
pulled at random
from page 36, Collier paperback,
a few pages into Part II.

Edith proclaims a kind of

creative writing described in:

"this brief analyis"

"brief": spare and severe

"analyis": clinical, scientific, unsentimental

"nothing of value": i.e., mechanistic assessment of frivolities

"except a statement": what you give to a police officer, a court declaration, (stated-comment), a spoken, written, or dictated-to-be-written-by-another string of text, similar in some respects to a blog post

"why attempt the work": the joyless, super-constructivist aesthetic: a work is attempted, it starts as a possibility, then probability, into actuality, and finally crowned with the quality of infallible inevitability ("a Proust, and a Tolstoy, and a Dickens had to be born", the universe contained pre-existing Shakespeare, Mark Kostabi, John Cage, Freud, Einstein, and Hegel, and only historians of the future can say if it succeeded by still standing above other works (one assumes Edith expects more than a shallow, "I felt inspired to write it, it comes from one of my inner fantasty selves")

"why this form selected": the de-constructivist, post-structuralist today sees the form not as message but as message packaging on a more subliminal level than cover art. The packaging of the text by the way it's formated, typography, spacings, spelling conventions, word choice, presentation style or genre, tone, person, intended audience.

Edith goes on to say that the work and its form are felt inside the author, and neither are fussed about much, it just leaps out from within you.

She is cold, objective, rational, calculating, articulate, scientific...

...until you get to the "all these aims...explicitly stated...must also be almost instinctively felt and acted upon" to enable the "imponderable something" to magically "pass into his creation" and causes it to come alive, move and breathe and sometimes squash its creator under its triumphant feet.

The margin, boundry, demarcation separating "explicit" from "almost (?) instinctive".

The bursting forth of the uncontainable, the wild, the mischief of the unique and uncommon personality.

The blogger could read a few pages of a classic literature text, let the style and grandeur sink in, then write something of value, but spontaneously allowing thoughts to rush forth onto the page.

Edit and season as necessary.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate


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