The House of Mirth (2)

Typically when I read a novel, I discover an “angle” fairly quickly, a particular view or perspective from which I hazard guesses about diction, point of view, characterization, plotting, and other tricks of the narrative trade, especially guesses about ideas and thematic content. But in reading The House of Mirth, I flailed about for an angle throughout and till the bitter, chloral-scented end. Interestingly, my flailing was in direct proportion to my enjoyment of the novel, in perfect lockstep with it—and I enjoyed it immensely. I recall a comment by Michel Foucault, offered I think in one of his many interviews, that he most enjoys listening to music, say, Schmelzer or Dvořák, when he can’t explain it, when he can’t penetrate its mystery. I feel much the same way about The House of Mirth. Giddy and slightly bemused, I flail before it. And in case you don’t believe me, I aim to prove it in the next post or two. Or five. I’m certain of one thing, however, this sentence, which keeps recurring to me at all hours of the day, as if I, too, were suffering from nervous exhaustion, “Miss Lily Bart is a doomed woman.”

Postscript. I’ll traffic in spoilers throughout. Read at your own peril.

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4 Responses to The House of Mirth (2)

  1. Tony says:

    My approach to this book was that I was Lily Bart. If you read my review, it makes sense… sort of 😉

  2. I like Foucault’s point re mystery. The house of mirth, as you say, had you thinking from beginning to end. It’s a truly great novel I think. I liked The age of innocence but this one is a whole new ball game (to my mind)

  3. The most surprising connection occurred to me this morning, re: Moby Dick and The House of Mirth. Both novels tickle my mysterian / metaphysical impulse in ways that are difficult to explain. But how happy was I to recall a specific something they have in common! Thrilled, quite honestly….

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