St George's Kermis with Maypole

Everyday Life as Literary Concept

As mundane as the phrase everyday life may seem, it can be an extraordinary notion. Think about how the major players in the French salons during the ancien régime believed their everyday lives would be relevant after they were long gone because they were advancing human gracefulness and intelligence. They were certainly right, as they […]

A rainy Saturday at Yale is my secret to happiness

The Secret of Happiness

Nestled into her chateau in St. Brice, France, during the summer of 1924, Edith Wharton wrote in her diary, “The secret of happiness is to have forgotten what it is to be happy.” As a writer, I interpret this sentiment as being so absorbed in work that no feelings register at all. Whether she meant it […]

Gondoliers on the Grand Canal in Venice

A Meditation on Age and Romance

  I turn 59 this week and knowing I am about to enter the last year of my 50’s has me thinking a great deal about age, particularly as it relates to independent women and romance. Did you know Peggy Guggenheim had a crush on Beat Poet Gregory Corso when she was my age—feelings he […]

Miles Stephenson with Wes Anderson

Earnest in Paris

This comparative look at Wes Anderson and Ernest Hemingway, Earnest in Paris, is a guest post by Miles Stephenson, a talented young writer whom I had the great pleasure of haunting locales touched by the Lost Generation during the trip to Paris he is presenting on The Diary of an Improvateur today.   Earnest in […]

I saw the Arc de Triomphe with new eyes

Seeing with New Eyes

  Day two of my Parisian literary adventure follows a foray I wrote about last week. It turned out to be a long wanderjahr because I decided to walk all the way from my hotel, Le Meridien Etoile in the 17th arrondissement near the Périphérique, along the spine of Avenue de la Grande Armée, past the Arc de Triomphe, […]

Chambre Bleu painting

A Backward Glance on rue de Varenne

The narrow sidewalks push their black iron batons up out of the ground to protect the buildings hemming them; the rain turns the cobblestones to muted mirrors of damp light—I’m visiting her again on the anniversary of her 155th birthday, and it dawns on me that I’ve never seen the statuesque green door with its […]

Edith Wharton's home in France

What Libraries Might Teach Us

I’m on my way back to Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University tomorrow and it occurred to me that it would be a good time to share with you what I’ve learned so far from delving into the papers of some heavyweight writers at some of the country’s finest libraries. I’ve reserved […]