Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor

( 9 )

Overview

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. Auden—to 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, Friend 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 ...

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Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor

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Overview

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. Auden—to 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, Friend 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
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)
Francine du Plessix Gray
Tad Friend's winsome memoir…recounts with amiable nostalgia, the foibles and predilections of a declining caste…The author's warmth and pleasant wit, his reliably graceful prose style, usually manage to carry the day.
—The New York Times
Marie Arana
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…a memorable hymn to a vanishing America. Exceptionally warm-hearted, full of good cheer, and ruthlessly funny, it may even have you singing along
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
“Grievances in my family are like underground coal fires,” Friend confides, “hard to detect and nearly impossible to extinguish.” But a remembrance of his mother that appeared in the New Yorker brought many of those tensions to the surface; shortly afterward, his father accused him of being “a prisoner of Freudianism” for dwelling on the theme of emotional distance. Nevertheless, Friend pushes forward, combining family history and memoir as he recounts his youthful efforts to prove “my family was not my fate” and break away from the “cast of mind” circumscribed by his WASP upbringing—the firm handshakes, the summer homes, the university clubs. Friend knows exactly how privileged he is and recognizes that readers won't easily feel sorry for someone who can spend more than $160,000 on therapy. (“My birthright in wherewithal,” he quips, “seemed to me almost perfectly balanced by my birthright in repression.”) Instead of asking for sympathy, he works at showing how his efforts at emotional integration have begun to pay off, including the relationship with his own wife and children, in a story of cross-generational frustration and reconciliation that transcends class boundaries. 8 pages of b&w photo. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
A New Yorker staff writer struggles to strike a prepossessing pose in a populous family photograph. Fully aware that his is a complicated story, Friend (Lost in Mongolia: Travels in Hollywood and Other Foreign Lands, 2001), provides a two-page family tree that rivals the Tudors' in complexity. The chart is a reader's dear friend, though, for it helps clarify quick allusions to "Timmie Robinson" and numerous others who occasionally pop up in the thick narrative, which interweaves accounts of his relatives' lives with ruminations on his childhood, schooling, lovers, career, travel, marriage, parenthood, privilege and psychotherapy. Friend often felt unloved and unloving, he writes, adding that he expended most of a $160,000 inheritance on 13 years of psychotherapy. He illuminates that period a bit in "Reconstruction," a chapter that also features accounts of his mother's obsessive remodeling of a house. We learn that Friend was an award-winning high-school student and a Harvard graduate who took home "a raft of prizes" at commencement. His father was president of Swarthmore College, his mother an aspiring poet and youthful rival of Sylvia Plath. The author bounced from girlfriend to girlfriend before finding his true love and current wife. Friend knows he's enjoyed some breaks in life-family summer homes in desirable places, notable relatives, money worries rather than poverty-and he's suitably ambivalent about it, waxing ironic and sometimes even waspish about the WASPy world of his nativity. He deals effectively with his mother's terminal struggles with cancer and with his father's emotional reserve. He tells us little about his writing-mostly that other people think it's wonderful-butnotes his initial difficulty at the New Yorker crafting "long pieces that fit together like jigsaw puzzles."Indeed, Friend's memoir is mostly in pieces that could use further assemblage. Agent: Amanda Urban/ICM
San Francisco Chronicle
"[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."
Wall Street Journal
"Mr. Friend has written an elegiac family history-cum-cultural taxonomy of a declining empire."
The Christian Science Monitor
"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 Oregonian
"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."
Maureen Corrigan
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.
NPR
Washington Post
"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."
Mary Karr
Cheerful Money is side-splittingly funny and touching, without being the least predictable. It has the verve of Nick and Nora Charles with their silver martini shakers, and some insights mournful as Kafka's. This will become a classic.
author of Lit and The Liars' Club
Peter Matthiessen
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.
author of Shadow Country
Maureen Corrigan - NPR
"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."
Susan Cheever
"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."
author of Lit and The Liars' Club Mary Karr
"Cheerful Money is side-splittingly funny and touching, without being the least predictable. It has the verve of Nick and Nora Charles with their silver martini shakers, and some insights mournful as Kafka's. This will become a classic."
author of Shadow Country Peter Matthiessen
"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."
Mary Karr - author of Lit and The Liars' Club
"Cheerful Money is side-splittingly funny and touching, without being the least predictable. It has the verve of Nick and Nora Charles with their silver martini shakers, and some insights mournful as Kafka's. This will become a classic."
Peter Matthiessen - author of Shadow Country
"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."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781441731920
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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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Table of Contents

Family Tree

Prologue: Snow 3

1 Tomatoes 9

2 Mud 21

3 Chimes 39

4 Sand 56

5 Bearings 91

6 Smoke 116

7 Loaded 139

8 Appearances 162

9 Clubs 191

10 Frost 216

11 Trusts 241

12 Guilt 267

13 Reconstruction 290

14 Lawns 311

15 Home 330

Copyright Acknowledgments 351

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

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(1)

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2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2012

    Boring mindless chatter

    I read a review that made it sound amusing. It wasn't.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 9, 2010

    Boring

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 5, 2009

    Sometimes Funny but Overall a Slow Read.

    The decline of the "Anglo" influence in America through the focus on one family was a good concept but did not achieve its goal.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews

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