in Praise of Edith Wharton’s Undine Spragg

Sofia Coppola at Lit Hub:

I’ve always loved Edith Wharton’s writing, but The Custom of the Country is my favorite, and I think her funniest and most sly. As I’ve worked on adapting it into a screenplay, I’ve found it interesting to hear some men say that Undine is so unlikable, while my women friends love her and are fascinated by her and what she’ll do next. We’ve all seen her before, the way she walks into the room, her focus on men, and her ease with their gaze. We admire and are annoyed by her. While I’ve often worked on stories with more sympathetic characters, it’s been so fun to dive into Undine’s world and pursuits.

Published in 1913, originally in serial form for Scribner’s Magazine, each book of The Custom of the Country ends with anticipation for what and who’s next on Undine’s social-climbing quest. Wharton paints the picture of the ultimate nouveau-riche climber. We watch her like a car crash while at the same time we root for her. She does things we would never dream of doing, and it’s such a delight to follow along. Mixed with empathy and disdain, Wharton manages to keep us captivated, and makes us look at ourselves along the way.

more here.