Saturday, 1 March 2008

A shaft driven straight into the heart of experience

Sometimes I really love my job - I spent the back end of this week researching Edith Wharton, Life and Works. She had such an interesting life - born into high class New York society, she had a frustrating marriage to a wealthy philanderer who was eventually diagnosed as psychotic, moved to Paris, had a passionate affair or two, was best mates with Henry James, spent four years helping refugees during the war and produced over twenty novels and eighty-six short stories.

She also designed houses, was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, was very fond of her pekinese dogs and met the young Indiana Jones (OK I know that's not true but I think its cool that she was included in the series!).

I am concentrating on my novel at the moment but I'm still drawn to short stories. I'm always scribbling down ideas and trying to develop them. In her book The Writing of Fiction (worth a borrow from the library) Edith Wharton says that a good short story "must not be a web loosely drawn over many aspects of life but a shaft driven straight into the heart of experience."

I like that and will try to bear it in mind in my scribblings.

She is also the author of Ethan Frome, in my experience the most depressing novel ever. Beyond crying into a hanky and/or wiping your nose on your sleeve, this book just make you feel so, so sad - approach with caution!

I am babysitting for a friend tonight and am planning to use the time to start a new short story - hopefully not deeply depressing, hopefully not 'a loose web' and possibly inspired by the Winter Witch 'Nightmares and Dreams' competition which Sally has just posted about.

I also came across this book during my Wharton researches and thought anyone out there with their own 'Shaggy Muse' might find it appealing.

Shaggy Muses: the dogs who inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton, and Emily Bronte by Maureen Adams

Personally I find Tangerine my shaggy tortoiseshell cat totally un-muselike, but she is good at keeping my toes warm while I write.


HelenMH said...

She sounds fab - and fancy being best mates with Henry James!

KAREN said...

Very interesting post. Edith Wharton makes me feel like the laziest, most boring person on the planet!

Good advice too. I'm also constantly drawn back to writing short stories, and am going through another 'phase' at the moment - I'm nowhere near 86 though :o)