Though I am, as previously stated, loyal to a fault I do go through stages of mild obsession with things. Authors are no different. I have had Rob Thomas,Francesca Lia Block, William Sleator, Scott Westerfeld, Robert Heinlein, Roald Dahl, and Stephen King phases. During these phases I check out every single book by the author that the local library carries, ordering other titles through inter-library loan and filling in whatever gaps remain at the local used bookstore. If I headed on down to the Barnes and Noble (I miss you, Borders!) for everything I would be destitute. I might not care as long as I had a large stack of books by my side, but my husband is rather fond of the internet.
My current obsession, and so my “favorite”, is Edith Wharton. I have read House of Mirth, The Custom of the Country, The Age of Innocence, and Ethan Frome. I am currently just about smack in the middle of Summer, and I have The Glimpses of the Moon ready to go as soon as I finish. Austen is fine, but for my money Wharton is where it’s at. Wharton wrote about end-of-the-19th-century upper-crust New York with the acid pen of the true insider, by turns wickedly funny and empathetically solemn, laying down observations on American culture that have stood the test of time. Our motivations and prejudices, wildest ambitions and deepest delusions. Ethan Frome and Summer are two of her forays intro writing about life outside her milieu, and her keen intuition for character carries the novels through areas where her personal knowledge may have fallen short.
When reading Wharton I often recall the Katharine Hepburn quote “Plain women know more about men than beautiful ones do.” The author was deeply familiar with not only beautiful women and their affect on men, but how destructive their passions could truly be. Undine Spragg’s beauty-borne ambition is every bit as insidious as Becky Sharp’s, Lily Bart’s impetuous nature results in a fate more tragic than Juliet’s.
I would highly recommend her novels to people-watchers and those who prefer their “novels of manners” with more bald honesty than frothy romance.