Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendorby Tad Friend
Tad Friend's family is nothing if not illustrious: his father was president of Swarthmore College, and at Smith his mother came in second in a poetry contest judged by W.H. Audento Sylvia Plath. For centuries, Wasps like his ancestors dominated American life. But then, in the '60s, their fortunes began to fall. As a young man, Tad noticed that his family
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Tad Friend's family is nothing if not illustrious: his father was president of Swarthmore College, and at Smith his mother came in second in a poetry contest judged by W.H. Audento Sylvia Plath. For centuries, Wasps like his ancestors dominated American life. But then, in the '60s, their fortunes began to fall. As a young man, Tad noticed that his family tree, for all its glories, was full of alcoholics, depressives, and reckless eccentrics. Yet his identity had already been shaped by the family's age-old traditions and expectations. Part memoir, part family history, andpart cultural study of the long swoon of the American Wasp, Cheerful Money is a captivating examination of a cultural crack-up and a man trying to escape its wreckage.
author of Lit and The Liars' Club
author of Shadow Country
In Tad Friend's stunning memoir about the lost world of the Wasp elite, the Hamptons' Georgica Pond comes to seem as Edenic asThoreau's Walden. Friend animates a deeply private, aristocratic way of life with detailed, moving intimacy."Susan Cheever"
Cheerful Money, by a self-stinging Wasp, is sharp as well as blunt about this problematic caste, but also rather proud of its salty aspects. An insightful, highly humorous memoir, exceptionally well-written."Peter Matthiessen, author of Shadow Country"
[A] splendid book.... Tad Friend does fall far enough from the tree to give us a delightfully rendered account of not only his self-discovery but an examination of "The Last Days of Wasp Splendor." It is gorgeously written.... Oh, reader, you are in for a treat."San Francisco Chronicle"
Mr. Friend has written an elegiac family history-cum-cultural taxonomy of a declining empire."Wall Street Journal"
Friend's talents are well suited to his material.... The tone he strikes is elegaic, even tender (at times) as he chronicles the futile pursuit of gracious living, now sinking into the "ruinous romance of loss." "The Christian Science Monitor"
Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor is taxonomy-as-memoir, an absolutely brilliant gift to the reader, wherein Friend essentially holds open the door to the exclusive club."The Oregonian"
Friend's memoir, called "Cheerful Money," is a droll, psychologically astute and sometimes nostalgic look backward at the WASP world that was.... Recognizing that it's his inherited duty to entertain and amuse his audience, even as he's occasionally serving up grisly confessions and nut-hard kernels of emotional truth."Maureen Corrigan, NPR"
American Wasps are now as rare as black truffles, and rarely has their story been told so candidly or entertainingly as it is in Tad Friend's wonderful new memoir, Cheerful Money.... Friend's book is such a winning family chronicle that the decline he describes is less a fall than an exhilarating ride, less sad than heartwarmingly comic."Washington Post
The WASP families of New England have long styled themselves as the American equivalent of the British aristocracy, but the prominence of American clans tends to vanish more quickly than that of their titled counterparts. Friend, a writer for The New Yorker, had a thorough WASP upbringing. Both his maternal and paternal families ran the proper course from elite prep schools to the Ivy League to the right clubs, set against a revolving backdrop of houses so large and storied that they had names rather than addresses.
\ \ Despite the glamour of such a life, a pervasive sense of decline emerged as the family's wealth dwindled. By the time Friend arrived, in the 1960s, the few jobs considered appropriate could hardly support or sustain the travel, the lavish parties, and the estates that were increasingly being sold off to -- gasp! -- the nouveau riche.
\ \ There's a sense of sad nostalgia in Cheerful Money for a life that just a few generations ago would have been Friend's birthright. However, also present is an acute assessment of the truly distasteful elements of his family legacy: anti-Semitism, for instance, and a tiresome snobbery. But there are worse things than having a trust fund large enough to make a career unnecessary, and Friend's deadpan depictions of wacky relatives, alcoholic binges, and the stiff upper lip typical of the Episcopalian elite make for wry entertainment. \ (Holiday 2009 Selection)
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Meet the Author
Tad Friend is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where he writes the magazine's "Letter from California." Prior to that, he wrote regularly for Outside, New York, and Esquire, and wrote travel stories from all seven continents. He plays golf and squash and watches a lot of television. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Amanda Hesser, and their children, Walker and Addie.
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I read a review that made it sound amusing. It wasn't.
I often enjoy Tad Friend's essays in the New Yorker. However,I became bored with this book around page 20. I just couldn't seem to care about either his story or the characters (family members). In the hopes that it would improve, I pushed on to page 75 before I gave it up. This one is not worth your time.
The decline of the "Anglo" influence in America through the focus on one family was a good concept but did not achieve its goal.