The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Love (and almost) Marriage

Billie Holiday in Down Beat magazine, 1947. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It's autumn in New York, and Newland Archer is about to marry May Welland. [Okay, he's about to marry her in a fictitious novel set some 140 years ago. Details.] May is the woman Archer is supposed to marry according to the aristocratic code that dictates the lives of Manhattan's elite. Billie Holiday's warm and soulful rendition of Vernon Duke's jazz standard "Autumn in New York" doesn't exactly evoke the cold, calculated words of Edith Wharton. But, for some reason, for me, the frustrated love story told in The Age of Innocence comes to mind in a stanza here and there.

"It's autumn in New York
That brings a (the) promise of new love
Autumn in New York
Is often mingled with pain

Dreamers with empty hands
(They) All sigh for exotic lands"
[Read: The dangerously untouchable coquette, Countess Madame Olenska]

Listen to an excerpt of Wharton's Pulitzer Prize masterpiece as read by a master actor, Alfred Molina. This excerpt from our audio guide about the novel also includes commentary by the brilliant humorist P.J. O'Rourke and the mesmerizing playwright David Ives.

[audio:http://bigreadblog.arts.gov//audio/AgeMarriage.mp3]

[transcript]

To hear the entire audio documentary, please check out The Big Read website!

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