I had never considered this before and was surprised to find her say it. I wouldn't go so far as to say housewives aren't interesting. I think that is an insult and an injust one. But it is interesting. I myself have been in the workforce for many years and am single with no children. The discussions I have amidst mothers and housewives are markedly different than those I have had when out and about traveling and immersing myself amongst al ages. Does this make me more interesting? I have never thought about that. But I do know I enjoy great conversation almost more than anything, and Wharton emphasizes that the French are the masters of the art of it.
As well, she explained that with the history of France and it's invasions, that the concept of tradition is one that is probably rather foreign to us on US soil, as we have not had our lands invaded and taken away from us. And so, the traditions that we may sometimes find slow or tedious there, they treasure. And as for the French being rude, she tied that back to those very traditions. She says that since foreigners may not know to say "Bonjour" to the shopkeeper when they enter the shop as is "tradition," when they are treated coldly they think the French are rude, when really they perhaps feel like things weren't being done as they "should be.
If you enjoy France or want some insight on the culture, Wharton always has some insights. Oct 30, Laura rated it it was amazing Shelves: I finished my MA thesis on Wharton last night. In spite of my shortcomings, I did enjoy reading this. This collection is brilliant and reveals Wharton's thoughts on women, culture, and equality. Her comparison of French and American societies still rings true today, especially her discussion of marriage, Wharton's signature topic.
She claims that when an American woman is married, she ceases to be part of society and have any influence on the men in her community. The whole time I read this, I kept thinking about how true this still is: The wedding day is the ceremony that symbolizes this transition. Especially interesting is the fact that Wharton is making the same argument as Gayle Rubin in "The Traffic in Women," but a good 60 years before her! I am a die hard Wharton fan, and this collection is part of the reason. A must read for anyone interested in Wharton, feminism, or the early twentieth century. Apr 05, Nari rated it really liked it Shelves: The French frequently came out on top in her comparisons.
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There were a few memorable quotes. Much of the French enigma still remains nearly years after this book was published. The last line in the book really sums it all up: Mar 28, Karen rated it really liked it. I always enjoy Wharton's writings. Her novels bely her study of human nature. So, not surprisingly, a non-fiction book about the French people and culture would be all about human nature. This book was written nearly years ago, so certainly some aspects have changed for both cultures. Women in the US routinely work alongside men.
My social circle is not limited to other women as would seem to have been the case in America a hundred years ago for married women. I cannot "partner" with my husb I always enjoy Wharton's writings. I cannot "partner" with my husband in his work as Wharton describes for the French women -- I am not a rocket scientist -- but I can and have influenced decisions he has made within his career. So, either the US has "grown up" a bit as a nation and within its culture, or I have been deeply affected by my French maternal grandmother.
May 23, Tarah rated it really liked it. In it is a tender accounting for of what might seem like French idiosyncrasies. Wharton's tenderness toward her subject is clear. But this books shows a LOT more about Wharton than it does about France itself, and any student of Wharton would do well to read it.
Jun 19, Nancy rated it liked it. Written at the time of World War I, this was a effort to explain a culture that might look, on the surface, close to American, but is really quite different. The book reveals perhaps as much about Wharton, as it does about the French. Surprising to the reader, this book is not so out-of-date. Nowadays it seems anyone who has spent any time at all in France writes a tome This book, in spite of its age, holds up as well as some of th Written at the time of World War I, this was a effort to explain a culture that might look, on the surface, close to American, but is really quite different.
This book, in spite of its age, holds up as well as some of those books which also romanticize the French culture. Enjoyable and some interesting insights along the way. Apr 28, Stephanie rated it really liked it Shelves: If you like more scientific non-fiction this will probably irritate you, but if you like to dream about romantic notions like a culture having an innate ability to appreciate art, you might enjoy it. I am in the latter group I think that even if this book might be speculative and perhaps a bit outdated, it is a fun daydream, and there are many quotable bits.
Sep 28, M.
French Ways and their Meaning by Edith Wharton | Book Around The Corner
It is obvious when reading that the book was written a century ago but I liked how Edith Wharton romanticised the French. There is undoubtedly some truth in her observations. It is good to read about her insight as she makes interesting points. Oct 02, Karen rated it really liked it.
My paternal grandmother was French, and I think the way I live and think and love the things I do, I have to be French right to the marrow of my bones. Reading this book is like reading a biography written about me. Aug 15, Susan rated it it was amazing. I read this a few years ago and need to reread it.
I liked her view of the French and there are parts that I found quite cryptic at times written in the early 's. Jan 20, Karen rated it liked it. The only nonfiction I've read by Wharton. I read it right before the first time I visited France and I found it quite insightful. Wharton really loved France and it shows here. Aug 29, Tamar rated it liked it. Mar 22, Jaymi Boswell rated it really liked it Recommends it for: This book gives me the chills.
I'm so jealous of her life. I was born in the wrong land. Nov 13, Amyem marked it as to-read Shelves: Jan 15, Catherine rated it really liked it Shelves: Although this book is ostensibly about French ways, at its heart it is about American ways and where Americans might be rather more tolerant of the French or even emulate them.
Apr 09, Amy added it. I usually love Wharton's writing, but being this was non-fiction, it didn't grab me as much. Sep 11, Charlotte rated it liked it Shelves: Jessica rated it it was amazing Dec 09, Matthew Davis rated it liked it Jan 04, Sandrine rated it liked it Sep 27, Jessica rated it really liked it Sep 07, Cecily Carver rated it liked it Apr 30, Megan Benson rated it really liked it Dec 06, Janavi Held rated it it was amazing Sep 17, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.
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The United States Of America. Edith Newbold Jones was born into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses. Edith's creativity and talent soon became obvious: By the a Edith Newbold Jones was born into such wealth and privilege that her family inspired the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses. By the age of eighteen she had written a novella, as well as witty reviews of it and published poetry in the Atlantic Monthly. After a failed engagement, Edith married a wealthy sportsman, Edward Wharton. Despite similar backgrounds and a shared taste for travel, the marriage was not a success.
Many of Wharton's novels chronicle unhappy marriages, in which the demands of love and vocation often conflict with the expectations of society. Wharton's first major novel, The House of Mirth, published in , enjoyed considerable literary success. Ethan Frome appeared six years later, solidifying Wharton's reputation as an important novelist.
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Often in the company of her close friend, Henry James, Wharton mingled with some of the most famous writers and artists of the day, including F. In Edith divorced Edward. She lived mostly in France for the remainder of her life. But I never considered this as a French thing. And Richelieu and the original members of the Academy had recognised from the first day that language was the chosen vessel in which the finer life of a nation must be preserved. The Academy still exists and is still in charge with inventing new French words to address to new realities.
Our government advertises about the proper way to say in French foreign words, mostly coming from the English. I blogged about that once here. Somehow, Edith Wharton shows that a fertile soil for those classes has been there in America for a while. It distinguishes, implicitly if not outspokenly, between the wrong that has far-reaching social consequences and that which injures only one or two persons, or perhaps only the moral sense of the offender.
The French have continued to accept this classification of offences. They continue to think the sin against the public conscience far graver than that against any private person. If in France there is a distinction between private and business morality it is exactly the reverse of that prevailing in America. Edith Wharton has put words on this. There is nothing subversive in openly talking about cuckooed Charles in class. France, as you know, is held up to all other countries as a model of thrift, of wise and prudent saving and spending.
Is that something really French? After the divorce rate exploded and left women working with their husbands without any money, the law was changed to give them a status. The second part explains our incomprehension regarding junk bonds and the sub-primes crisis in America and also strikes against any attempt to change the retirement system to an Anglo-Saxon one, ie with money invested in the stock markets. This point assured, they want only enough leisure and freedom from material anxiety to enjoy what life and the arts of life offer.
This absence of financial ambition should never be lost sight of: What he wants is leisure to enjoy the fleeting good things of life, from which no one knows better how to extract a temperate delight, and full liberty of mind to discuss general ideas while pursuing whatever trade or art he is engaged in. He increased the possibility of doing overtime hours, allowed retired persons to work.
People would rather work less and earn less than lose free time. Somehow I thought it was a new tendency coming from a general eagerness for leisure.
FRENCH WAYS AND THEIR MEANING
About t he status of the Frenchwoman. The French wife has less legal independence than the American or English wife, and is subject to a good many legal disqualifications from which women have freed themselves in other countries. At least, some critic. The complaint of Anglo-Saxons that, in travelling in France, they see little of the much-vaunted French courtesy, is not unjustified.
The French are not courteous from any vague sense of good-will toward mankind; they regard politeness as a coin with which certain things are obtainable, and being notably thrifty they are cautious about spending it on strangers. Stand in a street in San Francisco with a map and someone will come and help you. Do the same thing in Paris and see how long you wait until someone finally comes by you. Most of the compliments are really undeserved. I far from agree with everything she says but it was interesting and thought-provoking anyway. Of course, generalisation about an entire country is bound to be approximate at best: And on top of that, recent trends in cultural globalisation are eroding away many of the differences.
My wife is from France, and I first knew her back in the mid 80s , she used to say that fast food would never take off in France, as the French people care too much about the quality of their food: Can this observation be applied to, say, malt whisky? Obviously not, since Scotland has very severe alcohol-related problems: Most of fast-food for lunches are bought in bakeries sandwiches and salads. Yes the cultural differences exist, you probably experience this everyday, being from Indian origin and married to a French woman.
Great post bookaround — how much more worthwhile to have a French take on this. In turn, your list sparks off all kinds of thoughts in my own mind. I think we tend to forget on this side of the Atlantic how deeply the Puritan roots of America run for the white population especially and how much those values have become wrapped up in the American identity. Food is the obvious thing. The first time I stayed in America in the early s, it was quite a shock. But there, eating sandwiches at home for me, a sandwich meant picnic, outdoor , drinking only sodas they looked at me as if I were mad when I drank water and eating diner in restaurants at 5 or 6 pm or worse eating take away food in the car, on the parking lot of the fast-food, that was incredible.
Things have changed since, both in France we have more fast-foods and in America you can have water.
How she considered that making her own mayonnaise was extraordinary just sounded strange. In important family meetings, like Christmas, lunches last several hours. Impeachment for a blowjob between two consenting adults??? So a French, with Catholic roots, minds his own business when a neighbour has an affair or gets drunk or whatever. About relationships, what always strikes me is the vocabulary.
Do people really use them?
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What Wharton says about casual relationships between men and women is interesting too. She sort of says they are possible in France but not in America. Here she is about this and the positive consequences on marriage:. I used to live in Paris and it took so much time to do anything that it was discouraging. Vain, smug, conceited or whatever the word? After reading this, I went back and checked the date it was published. Prohibition was right around the corner for America. A lot of rich material here, and you are right when you said earlier that I should read this. When it came to the topic of pleasure, I thought of the phrase Joie de vivre—a French phrase but not exclusively belonging to the French.
I thought of you when I was reading this, because of all the French films you watch and all the French literature you read. You can find a copy online. How can I explain that? Do you remember Poppy, the character in the film Happy-Go-Lucky? She has a wide grin that reaches her eyes. How can I describe that emotion? You close your eyes, you disconnect your mind and you feel the sun on your face. You just enjoy the sensation of that sun, warming up your face and you just feel good.
Can you imagine it? Is it clearer now? Yes, I do believe that to this day French men treat their women differently, at least that is my experience. I utterly hated this aspect of being a muse and having to listen to stupid compliments while I wanted to discuss things of a more intellectual nature.
The seduction part is omnipresent and I find it tiring. Having lived in different cultural environments I can assure you it is very French. I also see this at work.
Picture a nice summer day and you are wearing a nice summer dress. No American man would compliment you for fear of being accused of sexual harrassment. A German man might stare but not say anything. An Italian would tell you that you wear a very stylish dress. And a Swiss man? I watched and tested it many times. What about the British? Part of me is annoyed are we staying still when the world moves on? So conversation was expected. At work, it depends what you do and where you work and how old the men are. Relationships were rather formal, except with my two closest collegues.
They were my age, which helps too. Where I work now, things are more informal, relaxed. They can make comments on my clothes if they want, I can tell them I like them better without a beard. I think when foreigners talk about the French, they often mean Parisians. I have not many experiences outside of that area, maybe that contributes to the different perception.
I never worked in a French company either. Since four years I work for a huge Swiss corporate company that just merged with an American one. The French people who work here are mostly from Paris or the South. Swiss people are highly informal, very unlike the Germans. There is definitely a resistance to the American way of life that is also reflected in the language and the use of foreign words. Not a bad thing, right?
I was asking myself, I cannot rememeber if you wrote it, whether Edith Wharton speaks about Parisians or the French in general? Edith Wharton writes about the French in general. But I understand she was involved with the high society of the Faubourg St Germain. Comparing her assessment of French ways with what Proust writes would be fascinating. They were contemporary and moved in the same circles. Despite my relative lack of interest in reading this book not a comment on French society, more my reluctance to get around to reading anything by Wharton… , every highlighted sentence here certainly got my brain working.
French Ways and Their Meaning by Edith Wharton
Hello, thank you for visiting and thanks for your kind comment. This book is really worth reading for an Anglo-Saxon and particularly for an American who enjoys French literature. Have you read any other Americans on France and French life?
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