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Described by literary critic Robert Morss Lovett as "a novelist of civilization, absorbed in the somewhat mechanical operations of civilization, absorbed in the somewhat mechanical operations of culture, preoccupied with the upper ('and inner') class," Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton (1862-1937) also wrote superbly crafted works of short fiction. The seven stor Described by literary critic Robert Morss Lovett as "a novelist of civilization, absorbed in the somewhat mechanical operations of civilization, absorbed in the somewhat mechanical operations of culture, preoccupied with the upper ('and inner') class," Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton (1862-1937) also wrote superbly crafted works of short fiction. The seven stories in this excellent collection demonstrate the author's ability to create memorable tales on themes of love and marriage, divorce, the experience of the artist, high society and its workings and other topics. "Souls Belated," a tragedy of mores, focuses on characters overcome by the demands of convention, while "The Pelican" and "The Muse's Tragedy" both present women whose realities differ from their public personae. "Expiation" is a satiric, revealing story about the publishing industry, featuring a writer determined to increase the sales of her first novel. In "The Dilettante," a young man who prides himself on his ability to manipulate women must face ironic consequences when he introduces his fiancée to his supposed lover. "Xingu" is a witty satire on the intellectual pretensions of a group of rich women, while "The Other Two" presents a darkly humorous look at the consequences of divorce. Gathered in this inexpensive volume, these stories provide an excellent sampling of Wharton's masterly efforts in the short story genre, a form of fiction she felt especially suited to her talents and one that enabled her to achieve a focused and intimate realism.


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Described by literary critic Robert Morss Lovett as "a novelist of civilization, absorbed in the somewhat mechanical operations of civilization, absorbed in the somewhat mechanical operations of culture, preoccupied with the upper ('and inner') class," Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton (1862-1937) also wrote superbly crafted works of short fiction. The seven stor Described by literary critic Robert Morss Lovett as "a novelist of civilization, absorbed in the somewhat mechanical operations of civilization, absorbed in the somewhat mechanical operations of culture, preoccupied with the upper ('and inner') class," Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton (1862-1937) also wrote superbly crafted works of short fiction. The seven stories in this excellent collection demonstrate the author's ability to create memorable tales on themes of love and marriage, divorce, the experience of the artist, high society and its workings and other topics. "Souls Belated," a tragedy of mores, focuses on characters overcome by the demands of convention, while "The Pelican" and "The Muse's Tragedy" both present women whose realities differ from their public personae. "Expiation" is a satiric, revealing story about the publishing industry, featuring a writer determined to increase the sales of her first novel. In "The Dilettante," a young man who prides himself on his ability to manipulate women must face ironic consequences when he introduces his fiancée to his supposed lover. "Xingu" is a witty satire on the intellectual pretensions of a group of rich women, while "The Other Two" presents a darkly humorous look at the consequences of divorce. Gathered in this inexpensive volume, these stories provide an excellent sampling of Wharton's masterly efforts in the short story genre, a form of fiction she felt especially suited to her talents and one that enabled her to achieve a focused and intimate realism.

30 review for Short Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    Edith Wharton has restored my faith in the short story as a form with this short, brilliant collection. In these seven stories we have laugh out loud humor as in the opening Expiation and the much lauded Xingu, we have stories of bittersweet relationships such as The Muse’s Tragedy and Souls Belated and several that focus or include discussion of the creative act of writing and being a writer. Most have a female character who is the central focus even if the narrator is male and these women run Edith Wharton has restored my faith in the short story as a form with this short, brilliant collection. In these seven stories we have laugh out loud humor as in the opening Expiation and the much lauded Xingu, we have stories of bittersweet relationships such as The Muse’s Tragedy and Souls Belated and several that focus or include discussion of the creative act of writing and being a writer. Most have a female character who is the central focus even if the narrator is male and these women run the gamut of witty, intellectual, tragic, melancholy and confused yet they are fully formed in just a few pages. Wharton’s writing is clever and funny and elegant and there are numerous lines I could list that illustrate this. Experimental forms and kaleidoscopic story lines are all well and good but sometimes you just want a damn good story written artfully and eloquently and this volume will reward you with seven! Some favorite lines ‘Though the trials of married life have been classified and catalogued with exhaustive accuracy, there is one form of conjugal misery which has perhaps received inadequate attention; and that is the suffering of the versatile woman whose husband is not equally adapted to her moods.’ (Expiation) ‘Even at the time I was not sure I liked his agreeable voice: it had a self-importance out of keeping with the humdrum nature of his story, a though a breeze engaged in shaking out a tablecloth should have fancied itself inflating a banner.’ (The Pelican) ‘Mrs. Ballinger is one of the ladies who pursue Culture in bands as though it were dangerous to meet alone. To this end she had founded the Lunch Club, an association composed of herself and several other huntresses of erudition.’ (Xingu)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    "Mrs. Manstey's View" - You are what you view... an Edith Wharton-era real estate story. (5 stars) "Roman Fever" - What happened that night in Rome so long ago? The secret revealed. (4 stars) "The Reckoning" - The high price of marital harmony. (4 stars) "Xingu" - Wild goings-on at a ladies' book group. (4 stars) "Mrs. Manstey's View" - You are what you view... an Edith Wharton-era real estate story. (5 stars) "Roman Fever" - What happened that night in Rome so long ago? The secret revealed. (4 stars) "The Reckoning" - The high price of marital harmony. (4 stars) "Xingu" - Wild goings-on at a ladies' book group. (4 stars)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cooper

    Wharton has a way of convincing you that her characters are sill fluff, before circling deeper and deeper into their thoughts and motivations until you find yourself immersed in an entire person, actual and whole, nothing like the veneer you encountered before. These stories are at once hilarious and moving, and I expect these characters to stick with me for some time.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rose

    Amusing social satire, but I like her ghost stories better.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    All of the stories in this book were beautifully written. But Wharton kept recycling the same sad themes of corrupted high society, divorce, and scandal. Also, her avant-garde feminism seemed rather confused and contradictory. The only story I actually enjoyed from this selection was Xingu. And even that left a bitter aftertaste. Maybe I would appreciate Edith Wharton more if I read one of her novels where her themes and characterization are fully fleshed out.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Fabulous little diversion. I find I much prefer her longer works, her writing and characters shine in the longer format and the subject material can be a little grating in nibbles, but overall worthwhile.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kirsti

    This contains one of my favorite Wharton turns of phrase: "the mentally unemployed." This contains one of my favorite Wharton turns of phrase: "the mentally unemployed."

  8. 4 out of 5

    volkhova

    Expiation and the Muse's tragedy were the ones I though were more interesting. Expiation and the Muse's tragedy were the ones I though were more interesting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Edith Wharton was not one of those authors whose stories grabbed you on the first page. She wrote with a type of eloquence and style that spoke of her upper-crust station in life. I've noticed that a lot of readers give up on her after a short while. I would recommend hanging in there, she's well worth it. This book has a nicely selected group of seven short stories, all of them strong. I think my favorites were Xingu and The Other Two. I believe that Xingu is the first true humorous story I've ever Edith Wharton was not one of those authors whose stories grabbed you on the first page. She wrote with a type of eloquence and style that spoke of her upper-crust station in life. I've noticed that a lot of readers give up on her after a short while. I would recommend hanging in there, she's well worth it. This book has a nicely selected group of seven short stories, all of them strong. I think my favorites were Xingu and The Other Two. I believe that Xingu is the first true humorous story I've ever read by Wharton. It's about a group of wealthy, pompous women and their Lunch Club that invite a "famous" author to speak at one of their meetings. Favorite line: ......she had a way of looking at you that made you feel as if there was something wrong with your hat. The Other Two is the story of a recently married man whose wife is twice divorced. Will the third time be the charm? Favorite line: She was "as easy as an old shoe"-a shoe that too many feet had worn.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    “Souls Belated” This story centers on Lydia, a woman who is leaving her husband for her lover but who finds herself torn between needing to be socially accepted (which means marrying her lover and potentially reproducing the same stifling situation she was fleeing from) and rejecting the conventional morality of New York's upper social circles. On the one hand, she detests marriage as a mere artificial form that people resort to to chain each other up out of fear; the rebellious side of her wishe “Souls Belated” This story centers on Lydia, a woman who is leaving her husband for her lover but who finds herself torn between needing to be socially accepted (which means marrying her lover and potentially reproducing the same stifling situation she was fleeing from) and rejecting the conventional morality of New York's upper social circles. On the one hand, she detests marriage as a mere artificial form that people resort to to chain each other up out of fear; the rebellious side of her wishes to cast aside the yoke of marriage entirely and simply live freely. Yet doing so would mean giving up her social status. Things come to a head in an Italian hotel, where she pretends to be the married wife of her lover, Gannett. Another woman, Mrs. Linton, is also a divorcee and the unmarried lover of Lord Trevenna. Mrs. Linton therefore is in a similar predicament as Lydia, and she has already been shunned by the high society members stating at the fashionable hotel. Lydia finds herself also shunning the pariah's presence, afraid to be seen with her. Linton asks Lydia to find out from her Gannett what Lord Trevenna discussed with him the previous evening, worrying that his family members are trying to lure him away from her, but Lydia refuses, after which Mrs. Linton blackmails Lydia by threatening to reveal Lydia's situation to the others in the hotel if she does not help. Lydia is ashamed of herself and asks her lover, Gannett, to tell the others of their situation. She oscillates back and forth between a need for freedom and a dependence on social acceptance until the end of the story, when it appears she has decided to marry Gannett, although something has been lost and the future is uncertain. “The Other Two” The story takes a wry look at one of Wharton's great subjects: divorce. The story centers centers on Waythorne and his new wife Alice. Waythorne is her third husband. Inevitably Alice's ex's are still entangled in her life in one way or another and cross Waythorne's path, which makes Waythorne uncomfortable and resentful at first. The story tracks Waythorne's shifting attitude to his wife and her previous husbands; ultimately he accepts the situation for what it is and in a somewhat surprising ending finds himself socializing with her "other two" at the end of the story. “Expiation” A satire about authorship and public reception in which an anxious author wins popularity by paying her uncle, the Bishop of Ossining, to publicly attack her new novel Fast and Loose. A comic illustration of the way fame leads more from scandal and controversy than merit. “Xingu” This is one of Wharton's most delightful stories, about a group of snobbish women who host a book club that invites distinguished writers to meetings on a periodic basis. They invite the celebrated novelist Osric Danes to a meeting after reading her novel "The Wings of Death." During the meeting, the disdainful authoress make the sycophantic women feel under-read and awkward through a series of belittling questions. Only Mrs. Roby is daring enough to call her a "brute" behind her back. The story hinges on a joke Roby plays on the women of the book club and Danes alike when she tells Danes they have been absorbed in "Xingu," to which all the women immediately agree, even though they have no idea what Xingu is. The joke goes on for some time. Danes is so impressed she leaves early with Roby. The story satirizes the kind pseudo-intellectuality in which people are more concerned to pass for smart and informed than actually be it. Xingu, we learn in the end, is a Brazilian river. The women realize with mortification that they've been taken in by Roby. “Roman Fever” One of Wharton's most masterful stories; it's about Grace Ansley and Alida Slade, two Americans on a trip to Rome with their daughters. Although they have always maintained an official and outward friendship, the women have little affection for one another. Alida secretly despises Grace; and Grace pities Alida. Over the course of the evening, the two women reminisce about an old trip they took to Rome twenty-five years ago. Old secrets rise to the surface, and it is revealed that Alida Slade sent a fraudulent letter to Grace from Delphin Slade all those years ago, a letter in which he purportedly asked her to meet him at the Colosseum for a rendezvous. (Readers of James will be reminded of Daisy Miller.) In other words, out of jealousy Alida tries to get Grace out of the way so that Delphin will marry her, which he indeed does. Grace counters with a confession of her own. She replied to that letter, and Delphin did indeed come to meet her. The result of that meeting is Barbara. Alida's husband is the father of Grace's daughter. This is the story about a treacherous act that backfires and that gives Grace an opportunity for precisely the kind of intimacy with Delphin that Alida tired so hard to prevent.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Phil Slattery

    I listened to this while traveling from Little Rock, Arkansas to Gillett, Arkansas. These are fantastic stories! Incredibly entertaining and insightful into human nature and foibles. I will read/listen to more of her short stories at first opportunity. I had long heard of Edith Wharton, but never "read" any of her works until I happened to come across this collection in a bookstore in the River Market district of Little Rock. There are some excellent twists in these four stories. The writing is I listened to this while traveling from Little Rock, Arkansas to Gillett, Arkansas. These are fantastic stories! Incredibly entertaining and insightful into human nature and foibles. I will read/listen to more of her short stories at first opportunity. I had long heard of Edith Wharton, but never "read" any of her works until I happened to come across this collection in a bookstore in the River Market district of Little Rock. There are some excellent twists in these four stories. The writing is superb! This is classic writing at its very best. Not a superfluous word and every sentence is packed with meaning and action leading to the story's conclusion. I look forward to reading more of her works.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Helen Campbell

    I had recently read the autobiography of Edith Wharton and what I learned enhanced my sublime enjoyment of these 7 short stories. I could see how her life and the people in it, the society in which she lived, and her observant and critical feelings toward them, were revealed in these tales. Her wit, irreverence to the opinions of her peers, and writing skills created these concise literary gems. If I had to choose one word to fit them, I would say "irony." I had recently read the autobiography of Edith Wharton and what I learned enhanced my sublime enjoyment of these 7 short stories. I could see how her life and the people in it, the society in which she lived, and her observant and critical feelings toward them, were revealed in these tales. Her wit, irreverence to the opinions of her peers, and writing skills created these concise literary gems. If I had to choose one word to fit them, I would say "irony."

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Turns out Wharton is good at short stories too...All the stories had a great time and the typical Wharton cynicism and pathos, but "Xingu" really stood out as an unexpectedly hilarious and biting tale. Turns out Wharton is good at short stories too...All the stories had a great time and the typical Wharton cynicism and pathos, but "Xingu" really stood out as an unexpectedly hilarious and biting tale.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    Nice collection of Wharton stories. It is definitely the "thrift" edition though. Nice collection of Wharton stories. It is definitely the "thrift" edition though.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Homeschoolmama

    1.5 stars for the first five stories 3 stars for the last two. Edith Wharton was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote stories and novels with one setting; upper crust people from New York or Boston, all of whom had maids, butlers, footmen, governesses, etc., literati who spent their time traveling abroad, speaking French, and discussing novels and investments. Oh yawn. Enough already. I grew pretty tired of the same characters. The stories read like a 19th century soap opera. Wharton's writ 1.5 stars for the first five stories 3 stars for the last two. Edith Wharton was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who wrote stories and novels with one setting; upper crust people from New York or Boston, all of whom had maids, butlers, footmen, governesses, etc., literati who spent their time traveling abroad, speaking French, and discussing novels and investments. Oh yawn. Enough already. I grew pretty tired of the same characters. The stories read like a 19th century soap opera. Wharton's writing style bugged me too. It's overly complicated. I was going to read The House of Mirth but I don't think I will now. From what I've seen of the plot, it's more of the same.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    I am not a great fan of the short story. Just not my cup of tea. This is Wharton at her best comic side. Loved "Xingu". But all were well written as only she can do. I even had to look up some words, as we have changed the use in our current language. That is always interesting and challenging. LOVED IT, overall! I am not a great fan of the short story. Just not my cup of tea. This is Wharton at her best comic side. Loved "Xingu". But all were well written as only she can do. I even had to look up some words, as we have changed the use in our current language. That is always interesting and challenging. LOVED IT, overall!

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Cerruti

    I did not expect these stories to be my cup of tea, but was pleasantly surprised. Roman Fever was my favorite. The twist at the end was elegant. The other three stories poked fun at the upper-class twits of her day. They were reminiscent of stories by Saki, but not as concise.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sandie

    This audio book was witty and fun, just perfect for two hours in the car. The stories, read by singular actors, seemed like little plays. The four pieces are: Mrs. Manstey's View, Roman Fever (my fave), The Reckoning, and Xingu. This audio book was witty and fun, just perfect for two hours in the car. The stories, read by singular actors, seemed like little plays. The four pieces are: Mrs. Manstey's View, Roman Fever (my fave), The Reckoning, and Xingu.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    I found a degree of variability in quality among these stories. While they all are well-written, some deal with the themes of social ostracism, feminism and relationships between the sexes better and more interestingly than others. My favorites are "The Pelican" and "Xingu". I found a degree of variability in quality among these stories. While they all are well-written, some deal with the themes of social ostracism, feminism and relationships between the sexes better and more interestingly than others. My favorites are "The Pelican" and "Xingu".

  20. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    There are so many wonderful quotations I could take from these pages. I find my notes and underlined paragraphs throughout the book. It was so enjoyable that I was disappointed that it wasn't longer. There are so many wonderful quotations I could take from these pages. I find my notes and underlined paragraphs throughout the book. It was so enjoyable that I was disappointed that it wasn't longer.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Not sure Wharton's art is best displayed in short-form, but a fairly enjoyable read regardless. Particularly enjoyed the more satirical stories - Xingu and Expiation - though the rest were by no means unpleasant. Not sure Wharton's art is best displayed in short-form, but a fairly enjoyable read regardless. Particularly enjoyed the more satirical stories - Xingu and Expiation - though the rest were by no means unpleasant.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    audio stories narrated by Alece.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    Fantastic character descriptions. Written in the early 1900's, they do not seem outdated and the situations are unique with a mix of humor and poignant tenderness. The vocab was very erudite. Fantastic character descriptions. Written in the early 1900's, they do not seem outdated and the situations are unique with a mix of humor and poignant tenderness. The vocab was very erudite.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Really loved the sharpness of many of these stories, though by the time I reached the end of the book the hopeless situations and love-going-nowhere was depressing. I'd recommend Xingu. Really loved the sharpness of many of these stories, though by the time I reached the end of the book the hopeless situations and love-going-nowhere was depressing. I'd recommend Xingu.

  25. 5 out of 5

    G Léger

    Only four stories, but they are magnificent. Very well read. I love the twists.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

  28. 4 out of 5

    April

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kezee

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sajani Kahandawala

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