The Atonement and Other Stories

Overview

No one else writes about the moral life of America's moneyed class with anything approaching Louis Auchincloss's understanding, sympathy, irony, and humor. In this, his first book of short fiction since the acclaimed Collected Stories, he again brings us news that no other writer can deliver, news about how America's great families and fortunes are run and the axes and crises on which they turn. Here is how the privileged view their privilege - some with smugness, some with style, some with a crushing sense of ...
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The Atonement and Other Stories

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Overview

No one else writes about the moral life of America's moneyed class with anything approaching Louis Auchincloss's understanding, sympathy, irony, and humor. In this, his first book of short fiction since the acclaimed Collected Stories, he again brings us news that no other writer can deliver, news about how America's great families and fortunes are run and the axes and crises on which they turn. Here is how the privileged view their privilege - some with smugness, some with style, some with a crushing sense of civic and personal responsibility. Here is how the rich marry, how they divorce, and, more important, why. Here, definitively and indelibly, is the eastern seaboard's Wasp establishment - sometimes in its glory, more often in its decline, and always with its values, assumptions, and increasingly fragile sense of self held up for our scrutiny by a master, the most subtle critic of American manners since Edith Wharton.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fragile, often smug, and sometimes silly characters populate this noteworthy collection of 12 stories from the ever-prolific Auchincloss The Education of Oscar Fairfax, etc.. The stories throw open once again his customary, sentimentally bittersweet window onto the declining WASP establishment. If one motif runs through these tales, it is collapse. Whether it's an insiders' financial network in "The Atonement," the regularity of a golf game in "The Foursome" or the moral fiber of a boarding school chum in "Realist in Babylon," some remnant of gentility is perpetually falling apart under Auchincloss's dismayed, nostalgic gaze. Despite the slightly static monologist style of "The Golden Voice" and "Lear's Shadow," these glimpses of the Eastern elite's manners and moral quandaries will provide an accessible first taste for the Auchincloss novice and an enjoyable read for longtime fans. Sept. FYI: This collection is being published to coincide with Auchincloss's 80th birthday.
Library Journal
Chronicler of the upper crust, Auchincloss has written 53 books in the last 50 years, and there's no stopping him. This new offering is his first collection of short fiction since his Collected Stories LJ 11/15/94 was published.
Kirkus Reviews
The 12 thematically linked tales in Auchincloss's first volume since his Collected (1994) dispel any sense of diminished talent in old age. With elegance and intelligence, the author further embellishes familiar themes—romantic egotism, the fate of family fortunes, and the relation of business and morality.

A Protestant moralist and the chronicler of a social class in decline, Auchincloss focuses here on characters who try to atone for past misdeeds. The title piece—a mini Bonfire of the Vanities—measures the moral complexities of financial manipulation in the contemporary marketplace, and poses the situational ethics of its fast-track protagonist against the seemingly unworldly wisdom of his father, a prep-school master. A railroad magnate atones for a life dedicated to business by assembling in old age a world-class art collection, much to the dismay of his heirs ("Ars Gratia Artis"). When a successful Manhattan lawyer divorces his first wife for his partner's, he makes up for this scandal by retreating to a quiet life as a professor, much to the chagrin of his ambitious second wife ("The Last Great Divorce"). While one heartless tycoon rationalizes his empire building ("Realist in Babylon"), a young lawyer abandons his career to follow his genuine interests ("The Hidden Muse"). A famous litigator at age 80 confronts, with some shock, the possibility that his wife understood him best when she steered him from a path leading to the Supreme Court ("The Golden Voice"). Auchincloss continues to be interested in the "spheres of influence" specific to gender in the WASP ascendancy. A longish tale of two sisters, "Honoria and Attila," neatly captures the various choices open to women of a certain class, as does "Geraldine," in which a society widow decides not to challenge her second husband's will, sacrificing a fortune for the moral high ground.

One of the last literary chroniclers of the upper class—and a voice still very much worth heeding.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395868263
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/19/1997
  • Pages: 275
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Louis Auchincloss was honored in the year 2000 as a "Living Landmark" by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. He has written more than sixty books, including the story collection Manhattan Monologues and the novel The Rector of Justin. The president of the Academy of Arts and Letters, he resides in New York City.
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Table of Contents

The Atonement 1
Ars Gratia Artis 35
The Last Great Divorce 59
The Maenads 88
The Foursome 108
Lear's Shadow 122
The Hidden Muse 134
Realist in Babylon 144
The Golden Voice 168
Honoria and Attila 182
The Ancient Greeks 221
Geraldine: A Spiritual Biography 244
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