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A Rose by any other name. . . is a Schicklgruber, a Pribicevic, or an O'Houlihan. . . a curiously American phenomenon which Morgan views upside down, inside out, forward and backward. Ted Morgan himself was, until 1973, Sanche de Gramont, scion of the most venerable and obsolete of aristocratic families, nothing less than a comte; Ted Morgan is a recycled anagram of the old handle which the author shed because he couldn't stomach so much ancien-regime pedigree preening and because name-changing and the creation of a new identity are, Morgan believes, as American as hot dogs on the 4th of July. To say that he gets a lot of good copy out of this middle-age linguistic conversion is an understatement: Morgan pirouettes around his topic, ready with infinite variations on the theme. We are introduced to name-changers from Erik H. Erikson to Whittaker Chambers; to every sort of rationale from pronounceability to literary pretension. ""There are thousands of Judge Craters wandering around America,"" notes Morgan who remains immensely French in his facile but 'uncanny apercus of American life. He adores the ""discardo culture,"" the hustler in every American soul, the risk-taking, the lack of class distinctions, the laissez-faire that assures each man enough rope to hang himself. The search for Homo Americanus, which happily never becomes ponderous, is interspersed with snatches of a life literary and adventurous (as Sanche de Gramont he is the author of several books) spent with ""one foot in the Hudson and one foot in the Seine."" There is no doubt about which side of the great pond he prefers: ""Better a General Electric no-defrost refrigerator than a Louis XIV chair."" He'll have lots of company.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin