A recently published book called “Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors” by Sarah Stodola gives great insight into the lives of authors that most of us wish we had read–at least that’s the case for me.
Oh, I’ve read Ernest Hemingway (who hasn’t?), but I haven’t attempted James Joyce or Junot Diaz, some of the authors that Stodola has researched.
One of the authors Stodola chose to write about is Edith Wharton, the wealthy woman who wrote scathing books about her own social class in the confines of New York high Society. I enjoyed the piece tremendously because I have read Wharton’s “Age of Innocence,” which gives a bird-eye view into the lives of the ninetheenth-century New York elite. I also loved the movie.
It seems Wharton didn’t really get down to serious writing until she was in her late thirties, but she had filled a lot of her time with serious reading such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Honore de Balzac, Leo Tolstory, George Eliot and Henry James who was a personal friend.
Wharton believed reading to be a critical element in the development of a writer. She felt that “Technique can be cultivated, and chiefly, I think, by reading only the best and rarest things, until one instinctively rejects the eacy accomodating form.”
According to Stodola, it wasn’t just fiction that informed Wharton’s writing, it was her reading of philosophers and social scientists that helped hone her abilit to dissect the world around her. One book she read and got a great deal from was Thorstein Veblen’s “The Theory of the Leisure Class.”
I’m ordering it from Amazon.