Friday, April 27, 2012


Edith Wharton's Lost Book Deal

Dear Mrs. Wharton;

Again, it's not that we don't like "Laurel Dyckman," we certainly do. It's just, well, it's pretty well-trodden ground, is it not? Our staff has expressed a greater concern for her fate when she was Lily Bart, or May Welland, or that foreign lady. At this point, a more upbeat narrative seems attractive, perhaps for a holiday release? We even took it home and let our wives give it a quick go, and more than one of them wished that Miss Dyckman had tried harder to make it work with Henry Holstead, that nice young man she's introduced to in the second chapter. The only real objection, as far as we can tell, is that he seemed "dull." "Dull" isn't so terrible, at least not as terrible as the final third of the manuscript (tone, not quality, dear!), when Miss Dyckman is forced to move in with her married sister whose husband strenuously disapproves of her.

Now, we understand that fiction is your wheelhouse, but have you given any thought to using your considerable skill to assist young ladies in their romantic endeavors? "Laurel Dyckman" could easily be transformed into "The Good-Enough Husband: A How-To Guide for the City Girl." Instead of the three chapters Miss Dyckman spends walking the grounds at Briarcliff, having those interminable conversations with the aging governess, you could include passages on grooming, dressing, and making amiable small talk with worthy gentlemen. You wouldn't have to leave Miss Dyckman out altogether, or even change her story! Instead, at the end of each of the original chapters, you could take time to explain how Miss Dyckman could have changed her conduct to better comport herself in love and society. The conversation with the aging governess? An excellent example of the futility of forming friendships with other single women, who can only compete with you for male attention, and can have no advice to offer on securing a husband.

As an additional example, after Miss Dyckman's unfortunate dinner party with the Rosings, and her inexplicable coldness to Mr. Mather, it would be extremely convivial of you to mention that, for a young woman of more than twenty-three years, a male acquaintance should be examined for any active impediment as a husband, and should not instead be expected to stand out in any particular way.

Your manuscript is enclosed, with annotations. It would certainly be premature to discuss returning your advance; we remain confident that "Laurel Dyckman" or "Miss Goofus and the Future Mrs. Gallant," or whatever title is eventually converged upon will have a happy home with us,

Your friends at A. Merriton & Co.

23 Comments / Post A Comment


My mother wrote this letter, right?


That was amazing!!! :D@k


Now I wish somebody would actually write this novel, or discover the long-lost manuscript of it.


@Fflora I dunno, a three-chapter walk and conversation in the garden might be a little much for me. And this is coming from someone who loves Henry James.


Haaaaaaaa, I loved this.

Edith Wharton's exact response to this letter can be found here.


It's indefensible, but I will mentally confuse Edith Wharton and Eudora Welty til the day I die. Like my friend who will never be able to tell the difference between Kevins Spacey, Kline and Costner.


@Decca I do this with Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott. It's not that I confuse their works, but I can almost guarantee that if you say one name, I will hear the other.


@Decca For a ridiculously long time (well into my teens) I thought Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn Manson were the same person? They have very similar names! I was very, very sheltered, and completely unaware of pop culture. Except for the geek parts. (My dad is a trekkie, as well as a fundie. Interesting dichotomy, really.)


@Decca All Kevins are alike to me.

Also do this with Amy Adams and Amy Ryan.


@Bitterblue As far as I remember, all the members of Marilyn Manson's band chose their stage names by combining the names of a classic movie star and a serial killer, so you're not far off!



Oh my god. Twiggy Ramirez. I GET IT NOW.


@DH@twitter Yeah! So maybe not strictly movie star, but general female star? Olivia Newton Bundy doesn't have a great ring to it, though.



I guess I knew Marilyn Manson had wangled his stage name that way, but I never knew any of the other band members' names except Twiggy's, and for some reason it never occurred to me to wonder why he called himself Twiggy.

Olivia Newton Bundy, really? That is...precious.


@Decca Oh my god. That makes so much sense! Okay, I allowing my 15-year-old self to feel a little less stupid now. Woo!


@SarahP I'm now wondering whether I knew they were different ladies. (i was never a LHoTP kid; it would've interfered with me rereading Matilda 1,000 times)


@Decca My issue is that I keep confusing Edith Wharton with Evelyn Waugh - they aren't even the same gender!


Whoa, way to project your own issues on that book, Men.


Please someone tell me I'm not the only one whose brain keeps mixing up Ediths Wharton and Zimmerman.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher You really, really aren't.


HAAAAAAAA!!!!!! This is the best!!! Especially as most bios of ol' Edith mention her frosty exchanges with her publishers through the post. Top notch Nicole!


steel strips The following bullet points explain what that means. In fact, he did answer several of the questions evil HR lady said he should have answered.


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