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Louis Auchincloss

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What a couple of days for deaths of important writers. I don't know if I'd quite call Auchincloss a 'great writer', but he was a very fine one, and he is another who 'owned' certain milieux. He 'owned Park Avenue' and New York old money and Wall Street law firms in superb prose and in many novels. The most famous is 'The Rector of Justin', most likely, but my personal favourite is 'A World of Profit', which gives more of an insider's view of the Upper East Side than Tom Wolfe's 'Bonfire of the Vanities', as much as I admire that book in its meticulous detailing of styles. Certain attitudes--the 'bumpkin mother-in-law' arriving without phoning first at her daughter-in-law's opulent apartment laden with fresh vegetables from her Long Island garden, only to be told that this was 'not the thing to do, that even her own mother called before coming over' has always remained with me as a particularly searing image of a clash of classes. It's like random remarks I've read in various places since such as 'Real WASPS don't take much food. A few roast potatoes, a piece of cold meat'. Or even after the Clintons were out of office, some East Side scion wrote 'well, they're very unpolished people, you know', when they were just setting out to live in New York.


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Thank you for posting, papeetepatrick. At least both men enjoyed a full life span, lived their lives as they wanted, and left lasting work behind them. Many can't say as much.

I like The Embezzler, too, in addition to the titles you mentioned, but Auchincloss' short stories tend to be stronger than his novels in general, I think.

I rather doubt Auchincloss would have been churlish about the Clintons coming to New York, but there are some choice remarks in this Financial Times interview from a couple of years ago.

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dirac--this is one of the best articles I've read in years. Choice is right. He's so hilariously high (naturally), everything comes out both sparkling and a total surprise. All of it, as of course, that amazing remark about the Bushes, said in front of the photo getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well his choice of service in WWII (the Navy): "You may be sunk, but you're quite comfortable until then". (I think just like that, so some of those attitudes don't require Ancient Money.)

And Gore Vidal's very specific appreciation of him is superb. He refuses to allow people not to recognize what Auchincloss has uniquely contributed, in letting one into the East Side world in a way that even Tom Wolfe couldn't (despite Auchincloss's admiration for Wolfe's extraordinary attention to styles and speech), and Capote spent 25-30 years dreaming of trying (or at least he tried to write about the more jet-set and sexy segment of high New York society, not succeeding very well even with that, as those 3 chapters of 'Answered Prayers' prove.)

This one is close to my favourite (and it's all good): "They all would have all been willing to die, if they hadn't already been in high positions." That is like Firbank, but a touch more substantial.

His assessment of the 'disappearing WASP', which he knows is doing anything but disappearing, is brilliant, and everybody interested in demographics, class hierarchies, political affiliations, ought to read this.

Thanks so much for linking this, one of the most wonderful things I've read in a long time.

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It is a wonderful interview, even without the four letter word applied to the Bush clan. Glad you liked it. :D

The Auchinclosses are old society, but they're not old money, BTW. There is no great fortune in the family and if they didn't marry money they had to make it.

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