American Icons: The House of Mirth

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Lily is a smart single woman, a beauty in demand on the party circuit. But Lily is nearing thirty, and struggling to manage money, friendships, and romance. In The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton examined the dangerous compromises facing a woman who wants to set her own destiny, and broke ground for countless writers who followed. This is not TV, and it doesn’t end happily. Candace Bushnell, who wrote Sex and the City, explains why she vowed “never to end up like Lily Bart.” Wharton scholars and film director Terence Davies explain why the tragedy feels so contemporary.

The House of Mirth was produced by Michele Siegel and edited by Emily Botein. Anne Marie Nest read selections from the book.

(Originally aired: October 29, 2010)


More Mirth: Listen to a bonus track featuring Jonathan Franzen and check out a slideshow on the feature page on our American Icons website.

Music Playlist

  1. Prelude, in E minor

    Artist: Chopin
  2. Fruhlingsglaube

    Artist: Franz Liszt
  3. Grande Etude de Paganini n3

    Artist: Franz Liszt
    Album: Liszt: Complete Paganini Etudes
    Label: Hyperion UK