Edith Wharton’s masterpiece, The Age of Innocence, presents the reader with two haunting questions. First, how can a novel with “innocence” in its title be so filled with feverish longing and smoldering desire? Second, how can a love story this passionate express itself with such respectable restraint? The answer to these questions can only be Wharton’s particular genius for portraying the mysterious contradictions of the human heart.
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American popular culture. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, a 2004 NEA report, identified a critical decline in reading for pleasure among American adults. The Big Read addresses this issue by bringing communities together to read, discuss, and celebrate books and writers from American and world literature.
A great book combines enlightenment with enchantment. It awakens our imagination and enlarges our humanity. It can even offer harrowing insights that somehow console and comfort us. Whether you’re a regular reader already or making up for lost time, thank you for joining The Big Read.
Edith Wharton, 1908 (Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)
Wharton's property in Lenox, MA, "The Mount" (Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)
Edith Wharton at her writing desk at the Pavillon Colombe in France, 1931 (Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)