Louis Auchincloss, Chronicler of the WASP Ascendancy, 92
Louis Auchincloss, whose austere novels exposed and defined the cloistered world of white coastal privilege in which he was raised, has died following a stroke.
Auchincloss, who wrote more than 30 novels in addition to being a practicing
real trusts and estates attorney for most of his life, was the kind of Groton-educated, moneyed Yale man who gets euologized by Gore Vidal: "Of all our novelists, Auchincloss is the only one who tells us how our rulers behave in their banks and their boardrooms, their law offices and their clubs."
And he came from the sort of family that summers in Bar Harbor and considers novel-writing a "vulgar" occupation; his debut was published under a pseudonym so as not to diminish his mother's social standing and his parents bemoaned the (not entirely unflattering) light he attempted to shine on the world of unearned wealth. His most famous novel, The Rector of Justin, was a fictional portrait of Endicott Peabody, Groton's founder.
It's fitting that Auchincloss has died just as the contemporary equivalents of the bankers and money-men whose lives he explored are swatting back against a spasm of impotent populism. The rage being directed at Goldman Sachs, AIG, Timothy Geithner, et. al. is a reaction against another colossal failure of Auchincloss' class of people to competently manage the power and resources that they were born into, a dynamic with which he was familiar. The Times' obituary offers this quote: "I used to say to my father, ‘Everything would be all right if only my class at Yale ran the country.' Well, they did run the country during the Vietnam War, and look what happened!" Subsequent classes have fared no better.