American Icons: The House of Mirth

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This is a cautionary tale of class, money, and society.

The House of Mirth feature card

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.

The actor Anne Marie Nest read selections from the book.

(Originally aired: October 29, 2010)

 

Bonus Track: Franzen on Wharton
The novelist Jonathan Franzen wrote in Time Magazine that The House of Mirth was one of five books that inspired him. In this bonus audio, Franzen tells Kurt why he thinks Wharton’s protagonist Lily Bart is “a miraculous achievement.”