Diary of Yuppie

Morrissey, Daniel

CHILDREN OF AFFLUENCE DIARY OF A YUPPIE Louis Auchincloss Houghton Mifflin, $16.95, 215 pp. Dantol Merrist*y In three decades of fine fiction, Louis Auchincloss has described the mores of...

...All does go well for Bob, as Sylvia introduces him to the leaders of contemporary New York society, providing him a bonanza of clients for the new law firm he has founded...
...Dantol Merrist*y In three decades of fine fiction, Louis Auchincloss has described the mores of America's social elite from his vantage point as a partner in a Wall Street law firm...
...But in today's emergent ruling class, the young urban professionals, Mr...
...The system continues and we are forced by our limitations to work within its unsatisfying constraints...
...is not looked down on except by sentimentalists...
...My law school classmates, now in their mid-thirties, speak of the "golden handcuffs" that bind them to lucrative but uninspiring work...
...27 February 1987: 119...
...Bob then finds in a bright and attractive fund-raising consultant the ideal urban professional consort: "Was it love...
...Service's exposure of sham spares no aspect of conventional virtue or piety...
...Service's undoing begins when he tells his senior partner, Branders Blakelock, about a plan to blackmail an opponent in a contested tender offer with evidence Bob has dug out of the executive's wastebasket...
...Service is startled and flays Blakelock in his journal for "toting a bag of Puritan principles" into dogfights like corporate take-overs...
...As the novel develops, Service plays out the ramifications of his intellectual honesty...
...In the end Service forswears overt cynicism and makes his accommodation to the conventions of the current order...
...Watergate showed it...
...And perhaps that hasn't been possible since the Renaissance...
...Blakelock will not permit Bob to use the fruits of such a despicable invasion of personal privacy...
...Service rightly finds Blakelock reeking of hypocrisy and offers that the modern world's antidote is a refreshing cynicism: A man who is found to have bought stock on inside information or misrepresented his assets in a loan application...
...There it is, the source of young urban professional malaise...
...Auchincloss's archtypical representative of the who-says-you-can't-have-itall generation is Robert Service,-a thirtytwo-year-old Columbia grad...
...He's simply being caught...
...Just when the prize is to be awarded, however, Service finds his standing jeopardized by what he sees as the pseudo-morality of traditional law practice...
...At this point, the reader might think that in Service's heartless attitude and avowedly self-serving conduct Auchincloss has concocted the perfect prescription for the eighties good life...
...Even his Protestant church gave out the subtle message that real success is power while the "multitudinous majority" in the congregation should be left with the sops of "dignity" and "honor...
...The argument over tender-offer tactics precipitates his break from both the firm and his wife Alice, an ethically sensitive woman who is repulsed by the now more explicit statements of his social philosophy...
...Can a lawyer speak of ethics when he puts all his professional skills at the service of so greedy an economic system...
...One senses with gratitude, however, that we haven't heard the last from Bob Service or his still-promising generation...
...The reader can imagine Auchincloss, now at retirement age, smiling wryly at his yuppie's selfstyled semi-conversion...
...The mentor neatly analyzes the dilemma that the modern world has forced on Service: "Lots of people are utterly content with the rewards of this world...
...Well married and the father of two darling girls, Bob has steadfastly toiled for the past eight years to prove himself worthy of partnership at an old-line New York law firm...
...Yet in all this success Service feels a relentless tug back to Alice, who "always rings true," the great exception to his categories of shams...
...Auchincloss may have met his toughest challenge...
...These people do know better at heart they want an economic and legal system more humanistic than the one bequeathed to them by Blakelock's Calvinist ancestors...
...Confused by his inability to make a final break from his wife, Bob seeks counsel from a prep school teacher under whose tutelage he had come to appreciate the poetry of Wordsworth and Gerard Manley Hopkins...
...she wouldn't discuss it just as she wouldn't discuss anything abstract, an afterlife, the deeper meaning of things...
...Sylvia lived for the here-andnow as did no epicurean I had ever known...
...He traces the origins of his hard-edged view to the embarrassment he felt when his parents covered their underachievement with a pretense of duty and love...
...Even the public understands that...
...You break the rules, pay the penalty, and go back to the game...
...We expected as much from their parents, but this group was supposed to know better...
...But you have been vouchsafed a vision of better things . . . you were mixing two incompatible things: a real love of beauty with a real love of success...
...Simply put, he must tell us why a generation with so much promise has panned out so poorly...
...The children of the affluent society, nurtured on the idealism of the sixties, have become the shallow status-seekers and rapacious consumers of the eighties...

Vol. 114 • February 1987 • No. 4


 
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