changed my mind

I've decided I don't want to be Edith Wharton when I grow up.

I know. Big announcement. Ms. Wharton would probably be very disappointed.

But as I was sitting in a coffee shop today, literally drinking a cup of coffee, I started to fall asleep while reading In Morocco.

I do realize this makes me sound like an absolute moron -- what kind of person lays out "I started to fall asleep" as part of a critical review? Not a person who should be taken at all seriously in the world of criticism. Especially since I also haven't read Wharton's fictional work.

Nonetheless, I think I'm going to part ways with this book, and its colourful descriptions of landscapes and rooftops.

Going into this work, I was aware Wharton's observations would run to the kind of colonial stuff of early-20th century missionary/Christian women. But where Karen Blixen shared snippets of conversation and told stories of people's lives and adventures, Wharton's book only lays the groundwork for what Morocco is or was.

That said, that is quite an accomplishment. As Wharton points out from the start, at the time she was writing this book, Morocco was relatively unknown beyond its coastline to "western" readers. She is more or less writing the blueprint for future travel guides, albeit with a great deal more talent and poetry.

Examples of what is lovely about this book:

"It is a good thing to begin with... a mishap, not only because it develops the fatalism necessary to the enjoyment of Africa, but because it lets one at once into the mysterious heart of the country: a country so deeply conditioned by its miles and miles of uncitied wilderness that until one has known the wilderness one cannot begin to understand the cities." (p. 14)


"Buildings, people, customs, seem all about to crumble and fall of their own weight: the present is a perpetually prolonged past. To touch the past with one's hands is realized only in dreams; and in Morocco the dream-feeling envelopes one at every step." (p. 85)

1 comment:

erin said...

Welcome to student life; I fall asleep while actually drinking coffee all the time!!

Please don't give up on Wharton. I read The Age of Innocence 10 years ago (and possibly House of Mirth?), and remember the rather frank assessment she gave of early 20th century New York, and what it meant to be a woman in that era. In the fog of my memory, it seemed kinda Wilde-esque, though not nearly so rich with the witticisms. Perhaps I am telling you complete crap, though, and need to re-read her work.