Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"I began to see what life there--or rather its negation--must have been in Ethan Frome's young manhood."

One could argue that the principal character in Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome is not Ethan himself, nor Zenobia, nor even Mattie Silver, but is in fact snow, in all its coldness and beauty. At least that it the way it feels to your blogger, who, though all would no doubt attest is usually more like Mattie ("her slim young throat and the brown wrist no bigger than a child's..."), today feels very much more Zenobia-esque ("I've got my shooting pains so bad ...").

This change, which one hopes will be temporary, could be due to the fact that the Berkshires has been completely transformed into Starkfield today: "I looked out of my window into a thick snow-fall. The height of the white waves massed against the garden-fence and along the wall of the church showed that the storm must have been going on all night,and that the drifts were likely to be heavy in the open. ... This time the wind did not cease with the return of the snow. Instead, it sprang up to a gale which now and then, from a tattered sky, flung pale sweeps of sunlight over a landscape chaotically tossed."

If one appears grumpy, then perhaps the fact that, even though your blogger had her posh frock ready for a trip to New York City with other, more prescient Mounties (who sensibly left Tuesday), the weather meant she was unable to attend The Mount's 2010 Season Preview at the New York School of Interior Design. She is not bitter, however, no sir! Give her ice, snow, smoking fireplaces, and possible electical outages over champagne brunches any day! In any case, The Mount's new season should prove to be the most diverse and interesting yet and will more than compensate for a little wintry weather!

If one is to be snowed in for long, and the electricity holds, there are always computer games to be played. Having just purchased Dante's Inferno, and always on the lookout for more games based on classic literature, one is thrilled by the idea of Ethan Frome: Sled Ride to Hell ! One believes that it would be a guaranteed hit, and the filmmakers showcased recently could make the film based on the game based on the book! When is our idea of a survival horror game based on Kerfol going to be picked up?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Edith Wharton makes it easy ...

... for your blogger, as she is undoubtedly the "center of the cultural universe". (One is considering trademarking that phrase, as it is both pithy and apt.) Proof follows herewith.

First, as noted in our previous entry, Wharton's inspiration extends through all generations and all media. The Mount's new favorite band is Tellison and the reason why is below:
"Sometimes I long for plots and structure..."

Next we come to an absolutely fascinating individual, Frances Benjamin Johnston, one the pioneers of photography, who was both African-American and a woman to boot! There is a wonderful online exhibit of Miss Johnston's work here. Her similarity to Edith Wharton is obvious in that they were both masters of their respective crafts at a somewhat unencouraging time (see advert below). But to us here at The Mount the most interesting thing about Miss Johnston's work is that she photographed the gardens of Pavillon Colombe, Edith Wharton's house near Paris. This photograph is from the Library of Congress, in which is housed the Frances Benjamin Johnston collection.

And lastly, at least for now, The Mount would like to congratulate Professor Stan Wojewodski Jr., Distinguished Professor of Directing in the Meadows School’s Division of Theatre, who has been appointed chair of theatre at SMU. In addition to his extensive theatre work, Prof. Wojewodski developed The Mount's 2005 exhibition Lily’s Downfall, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the publication of The House of Mirth. The Mount is obviously primarily responsible for the wise decision by SMU(or at least your blogger would like to think so.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wharton's classic novel Ethan Frome continues to inspire!

As proof that Edith Wharton's appeal never wanes, and just in time for The Mount's upcoming celebration of stage and screen adaptations of Edith Wharton's works, comes an updated Ethan Frome which is destined to become a classic. One needs do no more than quote from the press release: "Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, a new short film from the people who brought you Pilgrims ... is the latest short from Johnson's Cinemating and Off Set Services' PERIODS. series. Created by filmmakers Victor Quinaz and Anna Martemucci. PERIODS. takes the modern trappings of mumblecore and a pinch of MTV'S The Hills to approach classic settings and stories with a new found earnestness. PERIODS. is committed to historical and emotional accuracy, with historians and hysterics working around the clock. Or better yet, think of it as Masterpiece Theater on wine coolers. ... You'll be Froming at the mouth ... "

This is pretty impressive stuff, and one can't wait for the "exclusive Internet Mini-mini Series event, Jane Austen's Pride and Stuff.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who shall be our Edith?

As promised, we at The Mount are trying to assemble the perfect cast for a proposed biopic of Edith Wharton. Who knows, if we get the right package together perhaps an "angel" will appear with plenty of cash and we will be able to make our dream a reality! We herewith present a potted description of our heroine, Edith Newbold Jones Wharton.

A description of Edith Jones as a small child from Shari Benstock's No Gifts from Chance: "Our first glimpse of Edith is a miniature by an unknown artist made when she was three years old. Pale blue eyes peer wide-eyed from a squarish chubby cheeked face. Her lips are drawn in a bow, eyebrows sketched by two curved lines, the red hair pulled into big sausage curls at the temples. Later pictures emphasize her high, wide forehead and under shot jaw."

From Hermione Lee's biography comes a description of Edith Wharton in 1907 at age 45 at the beginning of her relationship with Morton Fullerton (pictured below):
"Edith was looking handsome and fine, in her dark furs and silks, her laces and pearls and elegant hats, her long, strong serious face with its large dark eyes and strongly arched eyebrows and ironical smile softened by a great sweep of dark-reddish hair pinned up in a large loose bun. She was not beautiful--her nose was too long, her chin too heavy and square, her build too stocky and her smile too tight, and her expression still showed something of that nervous apprehensive reserve that made her looks, in her twenties, so painfully tense."

(As an aside, your blogger, who suffered for years with the most horrible braces, does believe that modern orthodontics might have spared Mrs. Wharton the very prominent underbite which is so apparent in her adult photos.)

We have decided to leave out any descriptions from Percy Lubbock's Portrait of Edith Wharton. As they say in Wikipedia, its neutrality is disputed. Wharton's own godson, William Royall Tyler, said it was written by someone who appeared to "despise" Edith Wharton. Hermione Lee puts it very well: "Lubbock pursues with gusto [his] version of the chilly controlling chatelaine, which can make Edith Wharton sound like the character played by Margaret Dumont in the Marx Brothers films."
But who could have realized that this would serendipitously lead us to another perfect casting opportunity!!!

Please keep on sending in your suggestions and comments!