BOOKS: WHARTON MORE


Not too long ago I saw a movie called “The Words” it wasn’t necessarily a fantastic movie but it was Bradley Cooper and Daniel Day-Lewis so why not? At least the performances would be worth it.

The film is sort of a story within a story within a story, and focuses on Cooper’s character, a down on his luck writer who stumbles upon an old briefcase, and inside is an unpublished novel (or as Rebel Wilson would have said in Bridesmaids, “A very sad handwritten book.”) Anyway, Coopers character finds himself so engaged with the story he sits at his typewriter… or computer (I can’t remember which) and begins typing out the words. To make a long story short, he winds up getting the novel published and the real author Day-Lewis’s character shows up. When he asks Cooper why he did it, Cooper responds with something like “I just wanted to feel what it felt like to write those words.” (That was such a big set up for the following…)

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I remember the first time I ever read “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton. I think it might have been the first time I ever cried after reading a book. There was just such an overwhelming sense of compassion for poor Newland Archer and Countess Ellen Olenska. Now, I do not condone adultery but I mean… come on… Newland and May were dry dry dry.  They were kinda the most ill-matched couple. It was almost hurtful that  May and the Countess were cousins. May was stuffy and overly effected by her place in society while Ellen was like “Eff that shit. Yeah I come from wealth, but I wanna get some chicken and waffles in Harlem.” Anyway, back to Ellen and Newland (que Moonlight Sonata) they were so incredibly in love and so noble about it. It was sexy without being over sexed. It was simple and tragic..It was heartbreaking… it was love. Geesh, that pain of loving from a distance and that tension! Each page filled with their unspoken desperation for one another.  I think it was that last chapter that’s the true killer. It’s 25 years later, May has died (SHE WAS ALREADY DEAD TO ME) and Newland goes to Europe with his son . While there his son tells him that they will be going to visit Ellen (que Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me”) yet once outside of her apartment Newland tells his son he will not be joining him. Standing on the street and looking up at her window you can feel the memories crashing in on him, and in that moment we realize the only way they could stay in love are in these memories. Fuck. (Also I am just realizing Daniel Day-Lewis was also in the Scorsese directed film The Age of Innocence, look at me tying ish together. LOVE THAT MOVIE)

Well, that was another long-winded summary. Really all I wanted to do was write out one of my favorite moments from the book, to just feel Edith Wartonish for a moment.

XXIX
(288-289)

Meanwhile the carriage had worked its way out of the coil about the station,  and they were crawling down the slippery incline to the wharf, menaced by swaying coal-carts, bewildered horses, disheveled express-wagons, and an empty hearse–ah, that hearse! She shut her eyes as it passed and clutched at Archer’s hand.

“If only it doesn’t mean- poor Granny!”
“Oh, no, no- she’s much better- she’s alright, really. There-we’ve passed it!” he exclaimed, as if that made a difference.

Her hand remained in his, and  as the carriage lurched across the gang-plank  onto the ferry
he bent over, unbuttoned her tight brown glove, and kissed her palm as if he had kissed a relic. She disengaged herself with a faint smile, and he said:
“You didn’t expect me today?”
“Oh, no.”
“I meant to go to Washington to see you. I’d made all my arrangements— I very nearly crossed you in the train.”
“Oh-” she exclaimed, as if terrified by the narrowness of their escape.
“Do you know—I hardly remembered you?”
“Hardly remembered me?”
“Each time you happen to me all over again.”
“Oh, yes: I know! I know!”
“Does it-do I too: to you?” he insisted.
She nodded looking out of the window.
“Ellen- Ellen- Ellen!”

She made no answer, and he sat in silence watching her profile grow distinct against the snow streaked window. What had she been doing those four long months, he wondered? How little they knew of each other, after all! The precious moments were slipping away,  but he had forgotten everything that he had meant to say to her and could only helplessly
brood on the mystery of their remoteness and their proximity, which seemed to be symbolized by the fact that their sitting so close to each other, and yet being unable to see each others faces.

 

(page 291)

The young man, trembling, felt the pressure of her shoulder passed his arm about her.
“If you’re not blind, then, you must see that this can’t last.”
“What can’t?”
“Our being together- and not together.”
The-Age-of-Innocence-001“No. You ought not have come today,” she said in an altered voice; and suddenly
she turned, flung her arms around him and pressed her lips to his. At the same moment
the carriage began to move, and a gas- lamp at the head of the slip flashed its
light into the window. She drew away, and they sat silent and motionless while the
brougham struggled through the congestion of carriages about the ferry-landing.

As they grained the street Archer began to speak hurriedly.

“———- I couldn’t have spoken like this yesterday. because when we’ve been apart and I’m looking forward to seeing you every though is burnt up in a great flame. But then you come; and you’re so much more than I remembered, and what I want of you is so much more than an hour or two every now and then, with wastes of thirsty waiting between, that I can sit perfectly still beside you, like this, with that other vision in my mind, just quietly trusting to it to come true.”

For a moment she made no reply; then she asked, hardly above a whisper:
“What do you mean by trusting to it to come true?
“Why- you know it will, don’t you?”
“Your vision of you and me together?” She burst into a sudden hard laugh.
“You choose your place well to put it to me!”
“Do you mean because we’re in my wife’s brougham?” Shall we get out and walk then?
I don’t suppose you mind a little snow?”
She laughed again, more gently. “No; I shan’t get out and walk, because my business is to
get to Granny’s as quickly as I can. And you’ll sit beside me, and we’ll look, not at
visions, but at realities.”
“I don’t know what you mean by realities, the only reality to me is this.”

-PERFECTION-

 

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