Louis Auchincloss, novelist of WASP New York, has died at 92 of a stroke.
Auchincloss had worked as a lawyer before turning to writing, and became known for his chronicles of the Upper East Side’s ruling class. His 1965 novel The Rector of Justin was nominated for a Pulitzer. Contemporary literary trends seemed to move away from Auchincloss’s territory, but he objected to that view of things. Wrote New York in 2005:
The novelist bristles at the notion that he and his kin are obsolete. Subject matter aside, he argues, he’s not so far off from John Updike-“He might be writing in 1900”-or even Mailer (“if you leave out the four-letter words”).
Auchincloss’s novels dealt with something timeless: “Not since Dreiser has an American writer had so much to tell us about the role of money in our lives,” Gore Vidal told The Times. Of course, Auchincloss’s take on money was hardly Sister Carrie.
The Times obituary quotes his 1974 autobiography:
I grew up with a distinct sense that my parents were only tolerably well off. This is because children always compare their families with wealthier ones, never with poorer. I thought I knew perfectly well what it meant to be rich in New York. If you were rich, you lived in a house with a pompous beaux-arts facade and kept a butler and gave children’s parties with spun sugar on the ice cream and little cups of real silver as game prices. If you were not rich you lived in a brownstone with Irish maids who never called you Master Louis and parents who hollered up and down the stairs instead of ringing bells.