The Anniversary and Other Stories

Louis Auchincloss, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $25 (192p) ISBN 978-0-395-97074-4
These nine previously unpublished stories feature the author's usual preoccupations: the WASP aristocracy confronting moral dilemmas in the boardrooms, prep schools and churches of Manhattan, Westchester and Newport from the Gilded Age to the present. The husbands wrestle with the infidelity of their lovely, penitent wives (""The Interlude,"" ""The Anniversary""); with sexual improprieties at a posh prep school (""The Devil and Guy Lansing""); with reconciling the urge to follow one's muse as poet or to serve one's country in battle (""Man of Renaissance""). The author pays overt homage to James and Wharton, who explored similar themes with inimitable grace and subtlety. Here, however, the characters verge on banal, the dialogue is stilted and the snobbery oppressive. The intrusion of real-life figures--Henry James is one character's cousin; Frank Lloyd Wright designs a house for patrician newlyweds, and Julia Ward Howe appears in the last story, ""The Veteran,"" ready to recite her ""Battle Hymn of the Republic"" to an elite audience in Newport--points up the insubstantiality of Auchincloss's characterizations. The prose is arch, stagy, sometimes risible. One narrator admits, ""In the tumultuous fury of my mind in the next few days I must have waxed almost irrational""; a Yale-educated painter asks the glittering opportunist sitting for her portrait, ""Wasn't Paul a perfectly competent lover?"" The reply: ""He was. Very male. But with Eric I was in the hands of a master."" Theodore Roosevelt himself, advising a gifted poet to seriously turn his attention to politics, concedes, ""Poetry is bully!"" While his early novels (The Rector of Justin) and previous story collections are certain to assure Auchincloss a preeminent place in American letters, this later short fiction may strike a young audience as already dated. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/28/1999
Release date: 07/01/1999
Open Ebook - 192 pages - 978-0-547-94699-3
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