The Last Days of New York Society: Louis Auchincloss Remembers

Louis Auchincloss’ posthumous memoir, A Voice From Old New York, reads like a primer on New York society.  In concise and illustrative chapters Auchincloss recounts his early years, never sounding pretentious on the subjects of wealth and privilege.  Auchincloss dissects the mores, motivations, and misadventures of the upper class from the vantage point of a true insider.  The book is full of wisdom and candor, with Auchincloss recounting his schooling at Groton and Yale, summers in Bar Harbor, his evolution from lawyer to writer, and even a short stint as a child-thief.  There is a straight forward confessional quality to the prose.  Auchincloss’ substantial experience as a writer (penning more than sixty books in his 92 years) shows in simple, often beautiful sentences…a kind of no-nonsense elegance.  The book moves freely in subject and time making it read as if it’s an extemporaneous retelling of the past, keeping you turning the pages for what’s next.  The slim volume traces the last days of New York society and its slow dissent told through Auchincloss’ own life.  Fans of his prep school masterwork The Rector of Justin will enjoy the chapters on the Bovee School and Groton.  But, the book does not require a familiarity with his oeuvre.  If you have any interest in old New York, Society, the foibles of the haute bourgeoisie, etc. you will enjoy Auchincloss’ astute, graceful rendering of what it was actually like to be to-the-manor-born in old New York.


Gore Vidal said, “Of all our novelists, Auchincloss is the only one who tells us how our rulers behave in their banks and their boardrooms, their law offices and their clubs…. Not since Dreiser has an American writer had so much to tell us about the role of money in our lives.”

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Categories: New York Society

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