The Education of Oscar Fairfax

Louis Auchincloss, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $22.95 (225p) ISBN 978-0-395-73918-1
In this sedate and diverting fictional memoir, novelist-of-manners Auchincloss (Tales of Yesteryear) replays his favored themes: gentlemanly coping in New York society, practicing law, enjoying one's money, inspecting others' foibles. A sense of literary tradition permeates the narrative as characters revel in beloved authors: the Greeks, Wordsworth, Proust, Henry James, Edith Wharton. The title echoes the 1907 classic, The Education of Henry Adams, to point up an uneasy fit between upper-class schooling and the modern world. In chapters doubling as exemplary character studies, Oscar Fairfax, Yale grad and Wall Street attorney, fondly recalls his mentors--his Episcopal bishop grandfather and his academic masters--and how he adapted their quaint lessons to his own needs and passed his own wisdom on to chosen novices of the next generation. In the chapter ``My Son, My Son,'' Fairfax fosters his own child's growth from shy boyhood to happy marriage. Another, ``A Man's Reach,'' begins in elitist Bar Harbor, Maine, where Fairfax befriends the bright but resentful Max Griswold, teenage son of a hardworking hairdresser, whom he later sends to Yale and guides through life's mazes. Max's story typifies one Auchincloss model, that of the youth who rejects, then appreciates, society's values. ``The Unhappy Warrior'' first tracks the rise of the able but philandering lawyer who marries Fairfax's sister, then shows the woman's adjustment. Few surprises are offered here, but much satisfaction is generated as Auchincloss, in his 38th book of fiction, reliably affirms his craft, depicting the maturation of character through time. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/1995
Release date: 09/01/1995
Open Ebook - 225 pages - 978-0-547-75633-2
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