THE ANNIVERSARY by Louis Auchincloss


and Other Stories
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Auchincloss’s 16th collection is comprised of 9 published stories about the moneyed upper crust, whose complex mores have for over 40 years been memorably delineated in the prolific author’s impressive oeuvre (more than 50 books and counting). An autumnal mood suffuses these supremely literate tales of social-climbing and conflict, most of which are recollected in a kind of wry tranquility, and all of which display learned literary and cultural allusions and patiently constructed Jamesian periodic sentences. James is a clear influence on several stories that contrast Americans and Europeans (he even appears in “The Virginia Redbird” as a frequent visitor to the London home of the impecunious beauty who is, as she realizes, her snobbish husband’s prize possession). By comparison, other stories feel underimagined (—DeCicco v. Schweizer,” for example, a perhaps semiautobiographical meditation on its narrator’s twin passions for the law and literature) or overfamiliar (the title story’s bland exploration of a marriage endangered, then redeemed by adultery and its aftershocks; and the smug “The Last of the Great Courtesans,” both reading like warmed-over John O—Hara). But there are also several gems. In a densely packed 20 pages, “The Devil and Guy Lansing” records the spiritual odyssey and rueful self-discovery of a prep school headmaster-clergyman who “became a priest without being a Christian,” and “The Veterans” reaches back to the Civil War to examine the hearts and minds of two Americans in Paris, exempted from military service but not from the pressures of their respective consciences. And “Man of the Renaissance” superbly portrays the emotions of a sophisticate raised among Italy’s cultural wonders who understands too late that his accomplished young son was, unlike himself, much more than an “appreciat[or] of beautiful things.” It’s a story the author of “The Beast in the Jungle” would have admired. Vintage Auchincloss: suave, skillfully crafted, amusing, dependably entertaining stories from a master who, now in his ninth decade, remains one of the essential American writers.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1999
ISBN: 0-395-97074-1
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1999


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