The tinkling sounds of ice rattling around a fresh cocktail; Great Gatsby–like manicured green lawns; hushed, clipped tones conveying generations of ingrained manners—these are all stereotypical images that come to mind when you hear the term “WASP.” But in Tad Friend’s witty and fascinating memoir, Cheerful Money: Me, My Family and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor (available 9/21), we go beyond the clichés to understanding a larger—heading toward extinction—cultural phenomena.
Friend, a staff writer at The New Yorker, indeed comes from the kind of impressive lineage (spanning from the signing of the Declaration of Independence to getting rich at the turn of the 20th century on up to the present) that has ruled this country for centuries. But he’s quick to demystify it—the family tree has many branches of miserable scions, alcoholics and repressed depressives. His book is as much an examination of the shift in our nation’s culture as the 1960s began the decline of WASP fortune as it is a warm and intimate look at his family’s personal history, and his genetic and rightful place in it (eccentrics and all).
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