Louis Auchincloss, who wrote several delightful novels about delightful and not-so-delightful rich Manhattan WASPs, passed away Tuesday evening. He was—as Adam Sandler sang of O.J. Simpson—not a Jew. But in a 2008 essay in Tablet Magazine, Mark Oppenheimer expounded on experiencing Auchincloss as a Jew:
many decades later, reading Auchincloss is something of an education, skewed but wildly entertaining. Like watching Mad Men to learn about Kennedy-era businessmen, or HBO’s Rome to learn about ancient Rome, the more stereotyped the characters, the better; the payoff is not psychological intricacy but rather a kind of romanticized encounter with the past as other. Only it’s the WASP, not the Jew, who is the Other.
And Oppenheimer’s fine closing observation has decided what my weekend reading is going to be:
Now that Jews have been admitted to the club, we discover that it’s a rip-off, with bad food and overpriced drinks. There’s a poignant sense that maybe, in another time, it really was glamorous, that once we were being excluded from something worth having. The morality was bad, but the aesthetic was grand. Auchincloss continues to give us the pleasure of the latter without the worries of the former.
Related: Tales from School [Tablet Magazine]