Wharton vs Fitzgerald and the Jazz Age Novel

Wharton’s novel was little appreciated in its time, and it hasn’t benefited from the same revival of interest that eventually rescued F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, another Jazz Age novel. Maybe it’s because our culture is created and largely controlled by latter-day Pauline (and Paul) Manfords. Gatsby’s novel is held to reject the American dream itself as a falsity, obscene wealth as corrupting, and the WASP ruling class as a permanent source of oppression, despite its evident decline. Compared with Wharton’s novel, which cuts deeper and is more personal, Gatsby looks like a cheap attempt at scapegoating. For Twilight Sleep is a satire of the modern age, but it targets some of our permanent temptations. If we’re about to embark on a new Roaring Twenties, Wharton’s book will remind us that we’ve been there before.

Michael Brendan Dougherty

Matt Taibbi: On “White Fragility”

At a time of catastrophe and national despair, when conservative nationalism is on the rise and violent confrontation on the streets is becoming commonplace, it’s extremely suspicious that the books politicians, the press, university administrators, and corporate consultants alike are asking us to read are urging us to put race even more at the center of our identities, and fetishize the unbridgeable nature of our differences. — Matt Taibbi, on White Fragility and its popularity