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, Friend 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.
I see why some reviewers couldn't relate to or saw this book as a series of home movies. For me, those home movies were more like my own. Plus, I love home movies in general. I too partially grew up in Swarthmore and later on the Mainline. Although my application was rejected from the Shipley school. To apply, I even gave up my only chance to go to Europe and went to Shipley summer school, to improve my chances of getting in. I saw much of Tad's family in my own WASP family. It's nice to know I wasn't the only one on the Mainline being criticized and ostracized by inadequate table manners - using a knife instead of bread to push my food and lack of ability to take a proper mouthful (meanwhile my two other siblings were getting laid and stoned).
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