Evaluates the way privileged families like the author's dominated America for centuries before their fortunes failed in the 1960s, a period during which he assessed the heyday of WASP life and the dysfunction of his family.
Tad Friend's family is nothing if not illustrious: his father was president of Swarthmore College, and at Smith his mother came in second in a poetry contest judged by W.H. Auden--to Sylvia Plath. For centuries, Wasps like his ancestors dominated American life. But then, in the '60s, their fortunes began to fall. As a young man, Tad noticed that his family tree, for all its glories, was full of alcoholics, depressives, and reckless eccentrics. Yet his identity had already been shaped by the family's age-old traditions and expectations. Part memoir, part family history, and part cultural study of the long swoon of the American Wasp, Cheerful Money is a captivating examination of a cultural crack-up and a man trying to escape its wreckage.