Monday, April 16th, 2012

Pop Quiz: Edith Wharton? Or "Girls" Review?

1. “New York’s not very friendly to strange girls, is it? I suppose you’ve got so many of your own already—and they’re all so fascinating you don’t care!”

2. “The chief characteristic of her generation is a kind of creative solipsism: nothing is better material than the absurdities and contradictions of her own life. Successfully mining personal experience of underachievement has, of course, its ironies.”

3. "As a girl, you are a delicate glass vase, waiting to be broken. You are a sweet-smelling flower, waiting for life’s hobnailed boots to trample you. That built-in suspense is part of your appeal."

4. "It is less mortifying to believe one's self unpopular than insignificant, and vanity prefers to assume that indifference is a latent form of unfriendliness."

5. “Writing about the lives of women is a minefield. There are demands for 'realistic' representation, yet what constitutes realistic is ephemeral, shifting from woman to woman. What is relatable for one woman is completely alien for another.”

6. “If she was faintly aware of fresh difficulties ahead, she was sure of her ability to meet them: it was characteristic of her to feel that the only problems she could not solve were those with which she was familiar.”

7. “Entitlement can be a superpower: It’s the strength to believe, even when no one is listening, that you do have something to say.”

8. “Her story turns on the paradox of wanting access to power afforded by a city that’s the cultural capital of the moment while simultaneously desiring connection with a critical mass of people in situations similar to her own.”

9. "There were certain things that had to be done, and if done at all, done handsomely and thoroughly; and one of these in the old New York code, was the tribal rally around a kinswoman about to be eliminated from the tribe."

10. "She found poignant pleasure, at this stage in her career, in the question: 'What does a young girl know of life?'"

11. "Every morning the papers hit the door. Every morning yards of agitation and anxiety and self-alienation, briefs on how to get and spend our identities … queries about manners and mores and the mediated self, and so forth&mdasha;these meet the door downstairs with a solid thud."

12. "The more art purports to represent our reality, the more we end up scrutinizing it, pinning all our hopes on it, and feeling contemptuous when there are cracks in the mirror it holds in front of our faces."

13. "She was so evidently the victim of the civilization which had produced her, that the links of her bracelet seemed like manacles chaining her to her fate."

14. "There's nothing grimmer than the tragedy that wears a comic mask."

15. "Might it actually be braver, or more revolutionary, to portray sex as sometimes without dire consequence, or not totally absurd? To mingle the comic with a deeper investment, the bad parts with the fun parts?"

16. "The piece wants to flow like a length of ribbon unspooled in asides, advancing at digressive stretches, looping old news in ellipses to retrace patterns of thoughts, and so on, and on, until the whole of the thing gathers like a bloom of a bow pinned at the point of an eye."

17. "She is still a bundle of engaging possibilities rather than a finished picture."

Edith Wharton:
1. The Custom of the Country; 4. The House of Mirth; 6. The House of Mirth; 9. The Age of Innocence; 10. The Custom of the Country; 13. The House of Mirth; 14. The House of Mirth; 17. The Buccaneers

"Girls" Review
2. Hermione Hoby, The Guardian; 3. Heather Havrilesky, New York Times Magazine; 5. Jen Evans, BitchBuzz; 7. Emily Nussbaum, New York; 8. Richard Brody, The New Yorker; 11. Troy Patterson, Slate; 12. Nona Willis Aronowitz, GOOD; 15. Katie Roiphe, Slate; 16. Troy Patterson, Slate.

Related: "The House Of Mirth" As A Poorly Played Game of "Choose Your Own Adventure"

Ali Pechman lives in Chicago.

11 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#1,720)

I'm glad to be here for the moment when all other metacommentary about the response to Girls was obviated. This must be what V-E day felt like.

flossy (#1,402)

Next week on White Girls, the ladies try out the latest locally-sourced, artisinal abortifacient cocktails! Will they manage to fix that little problem without leaving a trace on their parents' health insurance records? Tune in to find out!

Mr. B (#10,093)

Did anyone actually finish Troy Patterson's 6,000-word Slate … piece? I mean Jesus.

melis (#1,854)

yes but what does tupac's hologram think of lena dunham's girls

flossy (#1,402)

@melis "And you thought my schtick was transparent!"

hockeymom (#143)

@melis I won't have an opinion until I hear what Ann Romney has to say on Twitter.

wawl (#11,474)

I haven't seen this yet, so I'm going to feel free to comment away, anyway!

I did see Tiny Furniture after a friend I respect described it as "not terrible for what it is." I did NOT finish it… so very very many semi-interesting indie movies, so little time.

I admired her honesty, I think that's pretty awesome and brave.

However, she contextualizes that honesty in a very crappy framework that's disappointing, and I think maybe deserves critique rather than celebration. I like to think that the hipster contingent watching her is shaking their heads about how, no, she doesn't get it. Being a lass in nyc is not to be perpetually on the wrong end of gender dynamics (no real men to be found/women all psycho). Is there an element of that? Hells to the yes. Is that the message we want to thematically focus on?

Not like a drumbeat for the antidepressant-dependent masses. It's not biochemistry that's at fault, it's shitty social constructs in a vast majority of the time. We're environmentally dependent and responsive creatures.

I'd really much rather be inspired by honesty than mired in a narrow facet of it. That's not truth, and it's not art, and it's not incisive or witty or sharp. And it's not in the same class as ms. wharton, who didn't just depict but revealed. Film is just as potent a medium as literature.

I hope that Lena can dig in a little more with this great opportunity, and get truly excellent writers (suggestion?), to show the theme of what's truly hip and happening in the world of lastest-gen mores to push the conversation forward, not just sink to the bottom of the barrel of ennui. Showing shitty things really helps if you are enlightening, but it's lazy if you're just regurgitating.

I think that's what she'll *need* to do if she wants this show to be successful.

And my takeaway about being from the latest generations today is that there is so much more breathing space, especially as a woman, but also definitely as a guy.

And as we head down a track that can go either in an impressive problem-solving solution oriented way, or turn into a depressing inertia driven epic failure to apply our intelligence, I think you really do need to choose a side to invest your energies.

wawl (#11,474)

@wawl ps. hipsterdom also has it's share of lack of "real women" (meaning ladies who aren't dependent on others for approval/validation) and psycho dudes. But the mess that is relationships that I see is nuanced and filled with all kinds of shit but one important distinction that makes a hipster is an understanding that we're all figuring this shit out, and not using old rulebooks that sucked the crap out of life. we're in a post-wharton world, thanks cheezus.

rocknrollunicorn (#12,570)

Troy Patterson must have seen this coming, right? Or he spent all weekend reading Wharton before watching "Girls" and lost his goddamn mind?

miguellee22 (#232,113)

really really great post…. i love it

alex2marse (#232,095)

@miguellee22 ya

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