Louis Auchincloss, RIP
For fans of the subdued, WASP-y novelist, Vulture has a nice remembrance:
For all of the critics’ emphasis on the WASP culture in which Auchincloss was born, New York’s prewar ruling elite was not just based on ethnicity. The Guggenheims and their ilk — the German-Jewish barons whose ancestors had opened their own dry-goods stores only 60 years after Scottish immigrant Hugh Auchincloss — upheld precisely the same values, even if they couldn’t get into the same schools. What they all had in common was a shame culture. There were certain things one didn’t do — marry outside one’s class, write a vulgar book, steal from one’s business partners, betray a neighbor’s trust. Auchincloss published his first book under a pseudonym in order to please his embarrassed mother, and joined a law firm rather than suffer the shameful stigma of Bohemianism. But as he grew older — went through psychoanalysis, plumbed the faults of his class — he let go of the blind obedience into which he was bred, and kept the sense of moral fortitude. He wrote one novel about a white-collar crook (The Embezzler), another about a school headmaster both noble and cruel (The Rector of Justin, nominated for a Pulitzer), and still another (Honorable Men) about a wealthy heir who resigns from government during the Vietnam War. He was — because of long life and his Whartonian style — a living anachronism. But his lament was less for a vanished class than for a bygone sense of shame. He understood that, whether in a feudal world or a meritocracy, power means nothing without responsibility.
Full New York Times obit here.