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Xingu

Edith Wharton

Book Overview: 

In the short story Xingu, six society ladies get together regularly to broaden their minds. It's a culture club they've named the Lunch Club. You can't just show up to a meeting and become a member, oh no, you must be recommended by someone important. While each lady has issues with one or more of the other members, they universally agree that Mrs Roby was a mistake. And she came so highly recommended, by a professor no less. Tsk-tsk.

Occasionally, they have in experts to give talks and contribute to the discussion. The ladies are all a-twitter over their next guest, author of The Wings of Death, Osric Dane. Mrs Ballinger will play hostess to the great lady, even though Mrs Plinth has a superior house (with a footman, thank you very much). The big day comes and the author arrives but she looks down her nose at the group leaving the ladies at a loss for words. They don't know what to do, until Mrs Roby starts talking about Xingu.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .hat it must always be a question whether a book can instruct unless it elevates."

"Oh—" murmured Mrs. Leveret, now feeling herself hopelessly astray.

"I don't know," said Mrs. Ballinger, scenting in Miss Van Vluyck's tone a tendency to depreciate the coveted distinction of entertaining Osric Dane; "I don't know that such a question can seriously be raised as to a book which has attracted more attention among thoughtful people than any novel since 'Robert Elsmere.'"

"Oh, but don't you see," exclaimed Laura Glyde, "that it's just the dark hopelessness of it all—the wonderful tone-scheme of black on black—that makes it such an artistic achievement? It reminded me when I read it of Prince Rupert's mani. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Reading Kalliope’s gorgeous, tempting review of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, coming accidently across this short story by her, like my daughter stealthily sticking her finger into a whipped cream topping, I hadn’t the patience to wait until I would find the time to embark on the novel –...more

What a wicked little satire! Wharton portrays a ladies' literary meeting with tongue firmly in cheek as the ladies welcome a popular author whose work intimidates them. They wish to seem educated and up-to-date, but they haven't read the author's books. Mrs. Dane, the popular author, sits down to...more

5★
What an absolute treat of a short story! Anyone who’s ever felt like an awkward peasant among self-proclaimed literati will love this Mad Hatter’s Tea Party of a book club.

"Mrs Ballinger is one of the ladies who pursue Culture in bands, as though it were dangerous to meet alone. To this end she...more

I read Edith Wharton's Xingu with a group of women who call themselves the Enchanted readers breakfast club. We have decided to discuss short stories over coffee. Having never been exposed to Edith Wharton before and desiring a variety of women authors for my women's history month lineup, I decid...more

At the beginning, I thought Wharton's writing pretentious. But as I proceeded with this short story I saw how the writing style complemented her theme. And by the end I was smiling broadly. Wharton has portrayed her characters eloquently and in the end, it was they who were pretentious.

My favorit...more

The Lunch club is expecting a guest for their next meeting, a famous author! Everyone is all atwitter over the prospect, except perhaps newest member Mrs. Roby.

"I can understand that, with all your other pursuits, you should not find much time for reading; but I should have thought you might at...more

"Her mind was an hotel where facts came and went like transient lodgers, without leaving their address behind, and frequently without paying for their board."

This short story by Edith Wharton is priceless! I spent an entertaining morning alternately reading, drinking coffee, and discussing bits a...more

Not quite a novella and yet more than a short story, Xingu is a witty and humorous look at pomposity, snobbery, and the inclination to derive worth from someone other than self. It was a bundle of satirical fun that made me laugh, while shaking my head and protesting to myself that "I have met th...more

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