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)