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The Touchstone

Part of The Art of the Novella

The story of a young man who scorns the love of a tortured novelist, only to have her words come back to haunt him from the dead, The Touchstone shows off the skills Wharton became famous for in novels such as Ethan Frome and House of Mirth, particularly her piercing and delicious talent for satiric observation. But despite its masterly control, this startlingly modern tale is also a simmering, rebel cri de coeur unleashed by a writer who was herself unappreciated in her own time. The combination of these attributes make this edgy novella a moving and suspenseful homage to the power of literature itself.

EDITH WHARTON was born Edith Newbold Jones in 1862 in New York City, into a socially prominent family whose wealth came from real estate holdings. She was discouraged from an interest in writing by her mother, who forbid her reading contemporary literature. but in 1878, a family friend passed along some of her poems to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who championed them for publication. She went on to maintain an unusual degree of independence despite marrying Edward Wharton, whom she divorced 30 years later. In 1921, she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize (for her novel The Age of Innocence). Wharton died in France in 1937.