Now, a Literary Moment...
Edith Wharton set The Age of Innocence in a high society world governed by strict codes of conduct. Those rules were mostly left unspoken …
"In reality, they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the 'real thing' was never said, or done, or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs."
Actor Alfred Molina, reading from The Age of Innocence.
Alfred Molina: In Wharton's novel, wearing the wrong dress to the opera could feed a scandal. The sight of an unfamiliar carriage parked outside a lady's door could lead to gossip.
Writer P.J. O'Rourke says there's more than one way to read Wharton's 'hieroglyphic world' …
P.J. O'Rourke: Well there are a couple of ways you could take this sentence. In one way, it's a criticism of a socially claustrophobic world, a world where people don't open their hearts to each other, where people do not say to each other, 'Can we talk?'
In another way -- don't we all live in just such a world where the 'real thing' was never said, or done, or even thought?"
Writer P.J O'Rourke, musing on the world in which Edith Wharton set her novel … The Age of Innocence.
This Literary Moment was created by the National Endowment for the Arts.
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