Edith Wharton (; born Edith Newbold Jones; January 24, 1862 – August 11, 1937) was an American novelist, short story writer, and designer. Wharton combined an insider's view of American aristocracy with a powerful prose style. Her novels and short stories realistically portrayed the lives and morals of the late nineteenth century, an era of decline and faded wealth. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1921, the first woman to receive this honor. Wharton was acquainted with many of the well-known people of her day, both in America and in Europe, including President Theodore Roosevelt.
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How many scholars are there whose single book or article has generated more intellectual energy than the collected works of other, quantitatively far more 'productive,' scholars? The commensurating device known as the 'tape measure' may tell us that a Vermeer interior and a cow plop are both twenty inches across; there, however, the similarity ends.
Beautiful things grow out of shit. Nobody ever believes that. Everyone thinks that Beethoven had his string quartets completely in his head—they somehow appeared there and formed in his head—and all he had to do was write them down and they would be manifest to the world. But what I think is so interesting, and would really be a lesson that everybody should learn, is that things come out of nothing. Things evolve out of nothing. You know, the tiniest seed in the right situation turns into the most beautiful forest. And then the most promising seed in the wrong situation turns into nothing. I think this would be important for people to understand, because it gives people confidence in their own lives to know that's how things work. If you walk around with the idea that there are some people who are so gifted—they have these wonderful things in their head but and you're not one of them, you're just sort of a normal person, you could never do anything like that—then you live a different kind of life. You could have another kind of life where you could say, well, I know that things come from nothing very much, start from unpromising beginnings, and I'm an unpromising beginning, and I could start something.