Louis Auchincloss: A Writer's Life

Louis Auchincloss: A Writer's Life

by Carol W. Gelderman
     
 

With more than sixty published novels, short story collections, and works of criticism and history to his credit, Louis Auchincloss is the very definition of prolific. He has garnered widespread acclaim for his unrivaled critical observations of Manhattan circles of wealth and influence, the same elite society in which he moves. In her definitive literary biography of…  See more details below

Overview

With more than sixty published novels, short story collections, and works of criticism and history to his credit, Louis Auchincloss is the very definition of prolific. He has garnered widespread acclaim for his unrivaled critical observations of Manhattan circles of wealth and influence, the same elite society in which he moves. In her definitive literary biography of Auchincloss, Carol Gelderman traces the iconic writer from boarding school to his early literary forays at Yale, from law school to naval service in World War II, and then to Wall Street, chronicling his success in both legal and literary careers. Gelderman notes that Auchincloss's greatest personal struggle-and perhaps greatest accomplishment-was to reconcile his competing impulses to follow his father's path to prominence in law and to write the stories of his world.

"Of all our novelists," Gore Vidal has observed, Auchincloss "is the only one who tells us how our rulers behave in their banks and their boardrooms, their law offices and their clubs." Gelderman shows how Auchincloss came to be our preeminent novelist of manners and power in this update to her 1993 biography of the only writer to be named a "living landmark" by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. She offers keen insights into his life, careers, and writings, including his best-selling novels Portrait in Brownstone, The House of Five Talents, and The Rector of Justin as well as the more recent works The Scarlet Letters, East Side Story, and The Young Apollo and Other Stories.

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Editorial Reviews

Christian Science Monitor
The narrative moves swiftly, is full of fascinating people and illuminating anecdotes, and the biographer maintains a fine balance between portraying her subject's social background as a member of the WASP elite and delineating the specific traits of his personality.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Author of biographies of Mary McCarthy and Henry Ford, Gelderman has produced an admiring, bland account of novelist Louis Auchincloss (b. 1917), witty observer of Manhattan's rich and powerful. Reared by a strict, overprotective mother and a sweet-natured father who suffered recurrent depressions, the future writer, we learn, developed a ``simultaneous insider-outsider view,'' a keen sense of irony that would inform his biting portrayals of upper-class greed and duplicity. Gelderman sheds a bit of light on Auchincloss's psychoanalysis, which apparently helped him emerge from his mother's autocratic influence. Studded with fresh, biographically informed literary criticism, her carefully researched narrative, which was written with Auchincloss's cooperation, follows Auchincloss from boarding school to Yale, where he was a budding novelist, to the Navy, where he was a lieutenant in WW II, and then to Wall Street, where he practiced law. Claiming that Auchincloss's best work ``is in the first rank of American literature,'' Gelderman portrays the novelist as the literary heir of Edith Wharton, recording the breakup of New York's monolithic old-money elite. Photos. (Jan.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
In this critical biography, Gelderman ( Henry Ford, LJ 2/1/81) ranks novelist/lawyer Auchincloss with Edith Wharton in his importance to American literature. Well written and well organized, this excellent biography details Auchincloss's family history, social background and values, and education, then goes on to describe his law practice, marriage, struggle to establish himself as a writer, insights gained through psychoanalysis, and eventual success in a dual career. Gelderman does an outstanding job of portraying the inner tension and outside pressures on a man torn between his writing and his law practice, who felt he owed ``a literary debt to the law.'' Auchincloss's interest in New York City's history and civic and social affairs is detailed at some length, while major works, including The Rector of Justin and Portrait in Brownstone , are discussed for the insights they provide into his life. Textual notes are included, but there is no formal bibliography. Recommended for law collections and American literature colections in public and academic libraries.-- Lesley Jorbin, Cleveland State Univ. Lib.
Alice Joyce
Gelderman portrays this writer--known above all for his arresting characterizations of the superrich--as coming from a family that qualified as merely prosperous. Delving into Auchincloss' early life, she sympathetically explores his love of literature and the resistance his parents offered to his pursuit of a writing career, especially his rather formidable mother. Auchincloss, who would in time become a savvy and dedicated observer of America's aristocratic upper crust, is shown working through his conflicting feelings when faced with going into law (his family's career of choice) or enjoying the life of a writer. When he eventually reconciled his ambitions, the exalted milieu of New York society became both the backdrop to his novels and the source of contacts for his law practice. Gelderman's scrutiny of Auchincloss' life--and writing, which favorably compares with Henry James'--should provide intriguing reading for his many fans.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780517587201
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/29/1992
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.06(h) x (d)

Meet the Author

Carol Gelderman is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at the University of New Orleans and the author of eight books, including Henry Ford: The Wayward Capitalist and Mary McCarthy: A Life.

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