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A Short Review of "Xingu and Other Stories"

At our February meeting we have discussed Edith Wharton's "Xingu and Other Stories", a collection of short stories published in their bilingual editions by Palabrero Press. It consists of five short stories written in this specific for Wharton ironic style, which ruthlessly uncovers the hypoccrisy of so many social conventions, which are still recognizable nowadays.

As the publisher describes: "Xingu is a sharp satire on society women who belong to a book club just to show their intellectual superiority to one another. But a writer's visit to the club will challenge their abilities, leading to a rather amusing outcome. “The Choice” reveals the alarming surprise awaiting a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage, while “The Other Two” tells the tale of a recently married man who has to face his wife’s past in the form of her two ex-husbands. To conclude the collection, “The Eyes” provides the account of a man whose decisions and actions haunt him, ultimately becoming the worst nightmare of all, whereas “The House of the Dead Hand” shows just how far a father’s power over his daughter can go."

We've all agreed that "Xingu" is the most interesting and at the same time funny story in this collection. A group of women get together regularly and occasionally invite a writer to talk to the group about their book. The writer is bored and disappointed by the  morally bland middle class women and their pedantic questions. The women are incapable of  having their own opinions and struggle to impress one another. They are pretentious and can't see their own limitations, often making fun of other people. Xingu is a funny anecdote, revealing how showing off can end up even today.
The other stories are less catchy, a bit less imaginative. "The Eyes" and "The House of the Dead Hand" are clearly inspired by gothic stories and succeed in recreating the mysterious atmosphere of those. "The Choice" focuses on the conventions and moral choices, doesn't clearly give the judgment and leaves it up to the reader to decide what was wrong or not, in the main character's behaviour. "The Other Two" is again having this ironic touch, but at the same time it reflects on the position of women in the late XIXth, early XXth century and it clearly shows double standards that existed (and often still do!) when it comes to judging men and women. 
Overall, it's a very good read, easy to follow, not overly ambitious, but not banal either. The fact that in this particular edition you have an English version (modernized!) on one side and the Spanish on the other is an extra bonus. Whenever you have some trouble with the vocabulary you can just jump to the page next to it and see a wonderful translation by Laura Salas.