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Stories of upper-class Americans, at home and abroad.
Stories of upper-class Americans of the twentieth century.
A Backward Glance is Edith Wharton's vivid account of both her public and her private life. With richness and delicacy, it describes the sophisticated New York society in which Wharton spent her youth, and chronicles her travels throughout Europe and her literary success as an adult. Beautifully depicted are her friendships with many of the most celebrated artists and writers of her day, including her close friend Henry James. In his introduction to this edition, Louis Auchincloss calls the writing in A Backward Glance "as firm and crisp and lucid as in the best of her novels." It is a memoir that will charm and fascinate all readers of Wharton's fiction.
A sparkling and profound consideration of women and power: the power of intellect, of money, of integrity, and of loyalty, love and self-respect. "If I have a bias it is in my suspicion that women are intellectually and intuitively superior to men," writes Christopher Gates, the elegant, sharp-tongued narrator of this book. "But," he adds, "I certainly never thought they were 'nicer.' And I very much doubt that anyone could think so who was raised, as I was, in a society in which the female had so many more privileges than the male." And so he begins to describe the twelve women who--as debutantes-- instituted his mother's "book class" in 1908 and with admirable tenacity met every month for over sixty years to discuss a selected title, old or new. Certainly during their lifetimes these women did not have any real political or economic clout comparable to that of the men of their day. Only Adeline Bloodgood had ever held a regular job, and only Polly Travers, as a State Assemblywoman, ever played a formal role in politics. For Georgia Bristed, "the hostess had largely consumed the woman," and Leila Lee was "a beauty in a day when simply being beautiful was considered an adequate occupation." And yet, although most of them were surrounded by a staff of servants and had no discernible responsibilities, these women still lived their lives with serious intent backed by a considerable and undeniable power that in no way derived from "the snares and lures of womanly wiles." Within the protected discipline of their surroundings, their lives were filled with drama and challenge--moments of passion, of betrayal and loyalty, of sweet revenge and joyless conquest, of irony and illumination. As the story unfolds, the women emerge as both heroines and victims; and in telling their story, Louis Auchincloss again proves himself a novelist of consummate skill whose sense of compassion and irony deepens with each new work. Of his book Narcissa and Other Fables reviewers said: "Auchincloss is still one of our best writers of fiction . . ." "A master story teller . . ." "Auchincloss is at his elegant best here."
A cat may look at a king, says an old proverb. The king is the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, whose fabled court at Versailles was the wonder of Europe; the cat is the watchful chronicler, Louis de Rouvroy, second duc de Saint-Simon, author of the famous Memoirs which are the definitive record of Louis' reign. Auchincloss has conceived his novel as an extension of the Memoirs, in which Saint-Simon reveals his own story--as well as a great deal about the private lives of the great and near-great that did not find its way into the published record. With his inimitable gift for characterization, Auchincloss portrays Saint-Simon, the meticulous, proud aristocrat of the old school who is at once fascinated and threatened by the powerful centralized monarchy Louis is building and by the king's plot to bolster his position by marrying off his illegitimate children to princes of the blood. Elegant, crisp, and abounding in authentic detail, The Cat and the King shows us the factions, liaisons, intrigues and dalliances that made up daily life at Versailles as they might have been seen from Saint-Simon's highly critical perspective. Auchincloss imagines the dominant figures of this greatest period in French history--the aging Louis; his pious morganatic spouse, Madame de Maintenon; Monsieur, the king's homosexual brother; the great warrior and ladies' man Conti; and many others--as wholly believable individuals with peculiar tics and foibles of their own; but none is stranger, more fascinating, or more believable than Saint-Simon himself. A remarkable portrait of a quintessential man of his time, a discerning study of the use and abuse of power, and an utterly convincing recreation of a turbulent age that bears no small resemblance to our own, The Cat and the King is a many-faceted jewel that represents a new dimension of achievement in Louis Auchincloss' distinguished career as a novelist.
Stories about upper society, usually in and around New York City at the beginning of the twentieth century.
"Auchincloss belongs among the masters of American short fiction," Kirkus Reviews recently noted, calling for "a fat collection spanning his forty-plus years of story-writing." Here at last is just that book, a treasury of Louis Auchincloss's finest stories and novellas, selected by the author. In his introduction to this volume, Auchincloss writes, "The fashion in short stories of the past half-century has tended to favor those that deal with a single episode . . . the turning on of a light, so to speak, to illuminate a dark room. But I have stuck to the leadership of Henry James and Edith Wharton . . . in giving my tales the scope of months, even of years." Indeed, Auchincloss deftly condenses time in much of his fiction, and the light he sheds on his startlingly real characters -- their choices, their foibles, their delusions, their alliances -- is all the more revealing for it. Essential for Auchincloss's loyal followers and a perfect introduction for initiates, The Collected Stories of Louis Auchincloss offers a wealth of delights from the pen of one of the most distinguished, prolific, and entertaining standard-bearers of American letters.
The offices, penthouses, and suburban chateaux of New York are the setting for Louis Auchincloss's The Dark Lady. Spanning three decades from the 1930s to the McCarthy era, the novel chronicles a powerful woman's rise and the human toll it exacts. In a world where birth and style count nearly as much as wealth, Elesina Dart is supremely equipped to star. Lovely, well-born, bright, even moderately talented as an actress, Elesina seems perversely bent on canceling out these advantages. After two destructive marriages and an affair with alcohol, she is close to low ebb when Ivy Trask takes heron. Ivy's business is the exercise of power, as editor of the fashion-arbitrating Tone magazine and in her own loveless life. In Elesina, she finds material worthy of her best efforts. Stage-managed by Ivy, Elesina makes a widely successful and equally scandalous match with Judge Irving Stein, banker, connoisseur, collector -- and old enough to know better, as all who are close to him point out. Mistress of Broad-lawns, living's Westchester estate, and caretaker of his fabulous art collection are roles Elesina takes in stride. Forall his riches and influence, Irving is a man of deep sensibility, a romantic -- as is David, his attractive youngest son, whose passion for his stepmother leads to tragic consequences. Inevitably, husband, lover, and friend all fall victim to Elesina's need for the center stage, which she has come to see as her manifest destiny. In this major new novel, Louis Auchincloss examines the many faces of ambition and desire that rule both the schemers and dreamers of fashionable society. It is a story that only Auchincloss, with his exceptional knowledge and insight, could write.
Bob Service, the protagonist of this deft and chilling novel of contemporary ambition and greed, is a thirty-two-year-old crack lawyer with blood as cold and clear as a five-dollar martini. Bob's god is power and his morals are ever tempered by expediency. His goals far exceed an imminent partnership in a big New York law firm.Bob's "perfect' marriage to the graceful and intelligent Alice is no match for the ardor of his corporate drive. And it certainly pales beside his explosive affair with Sylvia, whose naked ambition matches his own and whose social connections provide the ultimate bridge to the pinnacles of success.How Bob Service marches toward his fate while trampling on his associates and crippling his marriage forms the plot of this fast-paced novel about modern mores and life on the fast track of the big law firms. Office intrigue and duels for power rival anything that Machiavelli could have conjured up. And in Louis Auchincloss's hands, it all has an unnerv-ingly authentic ring. Louis Auchincloss began his law career at a Wall Street firm after attending Yale and the University of Virginia Law School. He is a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and president of the Museum of the City of New York. This is his thirty-eighth book, the most recent being The Book Class and Honorable Men.
"Louis Auchincloss has an enveloping story to tell and a perfect, understated knowledge of those who inhabit it," said the New York Times of The Scarlet Letters. The same can be said of Auchincloss's new novel, a tour de force that charts the rise of one uncommon family in America's grand city. How did the families who live on Manhattan's Upper East Side get to where they are today? As much a penetrating social history as it is engaging fiction, East Side Story tells of the Carnochans, a family whose Scottish forebears establish themselves in New York's textile business during the Civil War. From there they quickly move on to seize prominent positions in the country's top schools and Manhattan's elite firms. As the novel unfolds, family members across the generations recount their stories, illuminating lives steeped in both good fortune and moral jeopardy. From women who outsmart their foolish husbands, to ambitious lawyers who protect the Carnochan name, to the family's artists and writers, all weigh the question that infuses so much of Auchincloss's fiction: what makes for a meaningful life in a family that has so much? In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews hails Auchincloss for being "once again the master of his craft." East Side Story is both a loving and wicked look at New York's own as only this sublime master of manners can provide.
In this wise and masterly novel, Louis Auchincloss gives us a man who takes the measure of himself - and his times - with the art and insight of a new Henry Adams. Linking three generations of a Wall Street law firm, The Education of Oscar Fairfax provides a revealing portrait of the American upper classes throughout our century. The story opens in 1908, as St. Luke's Cathedral rises stone by stone on lower Broadway and young Oscar learns a lesson in compromise at the knee of its bishop, his grandfather. His schooling continues at St. Augustine's, where he sees a schoolmaster's high ideals exposed as fantasy, and at Yale, where Oscar's literary ambitions are tempered by a brilliant but ruthless classmate who proves that "the juiciest tidbit for many a writer is the hand that fed him." As an adult, Oscar is one who profoundly affects others, whether he is subtly influencing a Supreme Court justice during the New Deal era, acting as mentor to a talented local boy in a Maine resort town,
Like Francis Prescott in The Rector of Justin, Guy Prime enjoyed the distinction of having become a legend in his lifetime. But in Guy's case, the legend is one of betrayal and infamy. For the scandal of his embezzlement brought down the delicately balanced structure of the Stock Exchange. The long-honored system of self-government by mutual trust among gentlemen came to an end with the default of one of its brightest stars. The story of Guy's fall is told by the three persons most intimately concerned: Guy himself, Rex Geer, his closest friend, and Angelica, his wife. We see him first through his own eyes -- embittered, oddly proud of his peculiar distinction, and entirely unrepentant -- the golden boy, the Wall Street manipulator, and finally the old man determined to justify himself to the grandchildren he will never see.Rex and Angelica in turn pick up the same threads of the story, but the threads change color subtly as they pass through different hands. In the end, the reader must decide for himself which is the real Guy Prime. Louis Auchincloss brings to the financial world the same authority and understanding he brought to the worlds of the law (Powers of Attorney), the private school (The Rector of Justin), and the old families of New York (Portrait in Brownstone). Virgilia Peterson, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called The Rector of Justin "not only a passionately interesting, but a spiritually important study of the American character of, and for our time." Her words hold true for The Embezzler.
With his customary wit, humor, and irony, along with a fine sense of the period, Louis Auchincloss artfully brings to life an exciting and dramatic facet of eighteenth-century England. On the Continent, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, is laying waste to the lowlands in a bloody combat with Louis XIV At the British court, Queen Anne, aging, ill, and surrounded by sycophants, is coping with the intrigues of those who wish to promote Marlborough's dangerous ambitions. Chief among the plotters is his headstrong wife (and court favorite), Sarah Churchill.Into this tense and steamy environment comes young Abigail Hill, Sarah's impoverished cousin. Sarah has arranged for her to be a maid to the Queen. But Abigail will discover that she has been marked by destiny for a special mission, which is nothing less than to bring to a halt a bloody and destructive world war. How she accomplishes this is the subject of this unusual but historically justified tale.The drama of court life and high politics, the growing antagonism between Sarah and Abigail, and an engaging cast of characters make for a lively narrative. And the portrait of Queen Anne is a tour de force that lends further depth to this vivid and engaging book.
In this elegant collection of stories, Louis Auchincloss once again evokes the beguiling, complex world of New York society that he has made his own special literary landscape. Inspired by the colorful mosaic of ancient Greek myths, he has created six equally rich contemporary fables -- six lives governed by false gods.Hermes, or in Auchincloss's ironic interpretation, "god of the self-made man," is a Jewish lawyer who finds acceptance into WASP society only at greatest personal cost; Hephaestus is a bachelor designer of Palladian villas whose young bride, enamored of newfangled things, compels him to "go modern." In other stories, a former World War II naval officer, guided perhaps by the goddess Athene, escapes a sinking cruise ship by disguising himself as a woman; and a Catholic convert, distracted by the muse Polyhymnia, is torn between his priestly duties and his worldly social and artistic ambitions.In every tale a unique moral sensibility holds sway, revealing how the pagan impulse may surface in the most unlikely and provocative situations, compromising even the noblest of spirits. Keenly insightful, flawlessly executed, False Gods is the work of a master storyteller, widely acclaimed as American society's most entertaining and intelligent critic.
This superb gallery of portraits gathers its wit and resonance from the discerning eye of the central narrator, Dan Ruggles, who in the course of unraveling the dreams, doubts, and loyalties of those around him inevitably reveals his own. Dan spends his boyhood in the company of old-money aunts from Bar Harbor and polo-playing uncles from Argentina, stumbles upon the complexities of adulthood at Yale in the 1930s, and grows to worldly maturity at the Wall Street law firm that provides him not only with a vocation but with seemingly endless material for his fiction. Fellow passengers are the people in his life, each one a story and each one a lesson. Only Auchincloss can ferret out with such precision and understanding the secrets, foibles, and ironies that lie just beneath the proper Establishment surface. This is Louis Auchincloss at the top of his form--a book to please his many admirers and delightful introduction for new readers as well.
The Los Angeles Times has lauded Louis Auchincloss as "a novelist committed to examining the complicated layers of character, psychology, and society." In The Friend of Women, that dedication shines on every page in the singular, epigrammatic style of an American master.The mysteries of character are at the heart of these six previously unpublished pieces. In the title story, a teacher at a private girls' school ruminates on a long career, wondering if he was right to encourage his students to find a life less constrained than the conventional one prescribed to them or if he cruelly raised unrealistic expectations. In "The Country Cousin" -- a delightful one-act play -- a wealthy woman's dependent niece unwittingly serves as the vehicle that reveals her rich relatives' self-involvement. Ranging from a boyhood friendship tested by the fabrications of the McCarthy era to an Episcopal priest tormented by an autocratic headmaster, Auchincloss's fiction illuminates the complications that ensue when our perceptions of other people's character -- as well as our own -- are upended.
In a world of opulent museums, lavish homes and extravagant dreams, public spectacle pales before private intrigue, and the pursuit of power is the finest art. Welcome to the world of mater storyteller Louis Auchincloss...
A renaissance of E. M. Forster is certainly under way. The success of the many films based upon his novels demonstrates Forster's appeal to the modern audience and his aptitude for entertaining a mass quantity of readers over several decades. Four of his best novels are brought together here in one volume:Where Angels Fear to TreadThe Longest JourneyA Room with a ViewHowards End"E. M. Forster's characters are the most lifelike we have had since Jane Austen laid down the pen."-Virgina Woolf"[Forster] does not hesitate to kill off a character right after introducing him with a careful description which leads us to anticipate a larger role."-Louis Auchincloss"The shapeliness of his prose and his plotting still satisfies. The width remains piercing and seamlessly painless."-the New York Times"There is no questioning or resisting the charm of Mr. Forster. The Longest Journey steadily attains beauty."-Saturday Review
In The Headmaster's Dilemma, Louis Auchincloss revisits the prep school world of his most famous novel. That book, The Rector of Justin, published in 1964, took the form of a fictional biography, giving the reader the full life story of a much beloved and revered, if also feared, headmaster of an exclusive New England prep school. In The Headmaster's Dilemma, we see up close what happens when a school's ideals and founding principles collide with the exigencies of change.The Headmaster's Dilemma is the story of Michael Sayre, the handsome, avant-garde headmaster of Averhill, the great New England prep school as he is faced with a school administrator's worst nightmare: a lawsuit brought by fervent parents in response to an incident involving their son and an upperclassman. To make matters worse, Michael is losing support from both the board of trustees -- led by the conniving Donald Spencer -- and senior faculty members. With the help of his supportive wife, Michael attempts to right these wrongs, while keeping Averhill's best interests in mind.
From one of America's greatest men of letters, our sublime master of manners, comes his long-awaited new novel, HER INFINITE VARIETY. Louis Auchincloss has been called "our most astute observer of moral paradox among the affluent" (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.), his fiction described as that which "has always examined what makes life worth living" (Washington Post Book World). Now he brings us the rollicking tale of an unforgettable woman of mid-twentieth century America: the devilish, forever plotting, yet wholly beguiling Clara Hoyt. A romantic early in life, Clara gets engaged -- much to her mother's horror -- to the lackluster Bobbie Lester. Soon after her Vassar graduation, however, Clara sees the error of her ways, spurns Bobbie, and slyly enthralls the well-bred and fabulously wealthy Trevor Hoyt, the first of her husbands. Soon she lands a job at a tony magazine, and so begins her wildly entertaining course to the inner sanctum of New York's aristocracy and into the boardrooms of the publishing world.In a world where women still had to wield the weapons of allure and charm, above all else, to secure positions of power, Clara, one of the last of her kind, succeeds marvelously. Auchincloss gives us, in Clara, an irresistible Cleopatra, lovely, wily, and mercurial. As Shakespeare wrote of that feminine creation, "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale / Her infinite variety."
In his newest novel Louis Auchincloss explores the circumstances under which America's "best and brightest," or at least richest and most socially secure, came to such grief over the moral issues of our time. Chip Benedict appeared to have the best of everything: wealth, education, good looks, charm, and intelligence. Shortly before entering law school, he married Alida, a pale beauty with the slinky attractiveness of the day. But Alida had more than physical beauty. She had the cunning and talent to become the debutante of the year, thereby escaping the progressively threadbare world of tarnished elegance and unpaid bills to which she was born. Alida's life continued in a storybook fashion with her marriage to Chip, a seemingly perfect and certainly honorable man. Called to serve in World War II, he returned a hero, decorated for bravery at the Normandy landing. Following in his father's footsteps, he became chairman of the board of the prestigious Benedict Glass Company founded by his grandfather. And yet, with all of his gifts, Chip is haunted by dark guilt that drives him to excel, conform, and embrace a righteousness that he fails to perceive as hypocrisy. In business he becomes the perfect corporate executive: forward-looking, ambitious, lauded in Fortune 2nd Forbes. Chip serves his community, supports the arts, and patriotically honors his government. But when it comes to choosing sides on the issue of Vietnam, he makes a decision that casts aside the deepest ties and loyalties of his life. How Chip Benedict comes to terms with himself and with those whose lives are entwined with his leads to an ending filled with irony that will keep the reader speculating long after the book is closed.
The protagonist of this major new novel is a celebrated lawyer and political commentator. Felix Leit-ner's career--as advisor to presidents, brain-truster with the Justice Department, author of influential books on constitutional law and international politics, and Pulitzer-winning columnist--unfolds amid the pivotal issues and events of half a century. Its distinguishing characteristic is his unswerving commitment to intellectual truth, which often brings him to unpopular stands but which lends him, in the eyes of millions, the stature of an oracle. To tell Felix's larger-than-life story, Louis Auchincloss returns to the mode of fictional biography that produced his masterful portrait The Rector of Justin. Like that earlier classic, The House of the Prophet reveals its subject through the eyes of both his admirers and detractors; here the several narrators include Felix's two ex-wives, his stepdaughter, and a former law partner. The biographer and principal narrator is Roger Cutter, Felix's longtime research assistant and protege. With Felix now in his eighties and dying by degrees in a nursing home, Roger--for complex personal motives as much as for posterity's sake--resolves to compile an intimate chronicle of his mentor's life. The portrait that takes shape from Roger's memories, from documents g willingly or reluctantly supplied by Felix's family and associates, and from Felix's own accounts, is that of a man whose lifelong aim has been to stay free of any ties that might impinge on his quest for truth, be they emotional, religious, patriotic, or even humanitarian. Was Felix, then, a heartless egotist or a saint? And did his integrity justify the human toll it exacted? These questions--and above all, the central paradox of a man obsessed with truth but about whom there are many "truths"--remain for Roger and his readers to ponder. The House of the Prophet is Auchincloss's most powerful and ambitious novel in more than a decade, a penetrating, full-depth character study with a rich supporting cast and scenes that range from New York and Paris to a resort colony in Maine, from Georgetown dinner parties to an idyllic barge trip through the south of France. All are drawn with the unerring Auchincloss touch, and his portrait of Felix Leitner stands with The Rector of Justin as one of his greatest achievements.
This is a story of guilt and expiation by one of the modern American masters of the novel. The time is right now and the place is Manhattan, with an occasional trip to the country where the rich and those on the way up repair for weekends and holidays. Tony Lowder is the able and good-looking grandson of an Irish immigrant who prospered as a contractor and left behind a family that has been running downhill. Except Tony, who has a promising future in politics. He has married the only child of an old, correct New York family, he and Lee have two normally difficult children, and she tolerates her husband's continuing affair with wealthy Joan Conway, who was Tony's mistress before his marriage. There is always pressure for more money, and it has become acute with a drop in the market. The novel is a brilliant exploration of what happens to the inner experience as well as the surface relationships of these sophisticated and intelligent people when the agony of temptation, not resisted, makes its way into the center of their lives. The temptation emerges from a brokerage house under investigation and some Mafia figures ready to pay for a slight change in timing that may rescue the firm. What follows shocks the city and drives these people against each other even as it involves them more deeply. Behind his intimate knowledge of the world of lofty social position and power, Louis Auchincloss's basic concern is with the human being shaped through problems of moral choice. He follows the intricate paths that his characters must trace with the skillful ease that makes an absorbing story. All the while he is reaching toward a fundamental question of what happens to people when their loyalties are put under unexpected acute pressure, particularly to the man who loves everyone the same.
A short but provocative book on the way these two playwrights deal with Rome.
In what may be his finest novel since The Rector of Justin, Louis Auchincloss offers his richest portrait yet of the manners and mores of the Establishment world he knows so well. The lady of situations is Natica Chauncey, the daughter of a ruined financier who is forced to rely on a kindly matron for her glancing acquaintance with the aristocracy of Long Island. But Natica is too clear-sighted to pretend that such a life, as much as it dazzles her, would satisfy her intellect. Coming of age at a time when anything more than a modest show of ambition does not become a lady, she must seek her own fortune in the fortunes of others. And so, with little more than her wits and determination, she makes her way through the social shoals of New England prep schools, Hudson Valley estates, and New York drawing rooms. Natica sees herself as a Bronte sister "without the moors and without the genius"; her doting Aunt Ruth, a woman of less imagination but considerably more compassion, would contend merely that she has "an attractive personality and a first-class mind." But Natica has one thing more: a gift for finding opportunity in improbable situations, even at the risk of scandal. Almost in spite of herself, she emerges as an unlikely, and unforgettable, femme fatale. Shrewd, observant, and always graceful, The Lady of Situations is Auchincloss at his best, the work of a master storyteller.
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