Friday, January 7, 2011

A Voice from Old New York

I met Mr. Auchincloss a couple of times when I worked for an old money investment firm in NYC right out of college as the assistant to the president (first big job!) - he was a lovely man and I have always enjoyed reading his books.

At the time of his death, Louis Auchincloss—enemy of bores, self-pity, and gossip less than fresh—had just finished taking on a subject he had long avoided: himself. His memoir confirms that, despite the spark of his fiction, Auchincloss himself was the most entertaining character he has created. No traitor to his class but occasionally its critic, he returns us to his Society which was, he maintains, less interesting than its members admitted. You may differ as he unfurls his life with dignity, summoning his family (particularly his father who suffered from depression and forgave him for hating sports) and intimates. Brooke Astor and her circle are here, along with glimpses of Jacqueline Onassis. Most memorable, though, is his way with those outside the salon: the cranky maid; the maiden aunt, perpetually out of place; the less-than-well-born boy who threw himself from a window over a woman and a man. Here is Auchincloss, an American master, being Auchincloss, a rare eye, a generous and lively spirit to the end.

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