I was perusing the excellent used bookstore in my neighborhood and encountered The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton. It was a 1973 paperback version from Scribner, and, flipping the pages, it was filled with illustrations, all by the artist Laszlo Kubinyi (like this one, from the cover). I’d read a few Edith Wharton novels, but I hadn’t become enraptured with her work until I read this book. After I read it, my notion of the ghost story changed, and I’ve become a Wharton enthusiast.
I’ve always been a person who’s easily spooked. Zombies and serial killers don’t get me – it’s ghosts. Demons, spirits. (Actually, this is not true. Buffalo Bill and 28 Days Later totally get me. But mainly, it’s ghosts.) Maybe it’s my suburban childhood filled with TV and movies, and too many stories told at sleep-away camp around a dying campfire. The rigid societal mores Edith Wharton traveled in stuck with me most about her novels. After reading her ghost stories I couldn’t help but imagine Wharton herself, in The Mount, her giant house, locked in her terrible marriage, living in that incredibly rigid age, having her desperate love affair. Much has been written about that age, but until I read this it didn’t capture my imagination.