The death of J. D. Salinger (see Dan Kraus’ post on Likely Stories) has overshadowed the fact we lost another literary figure this week: Louis Auchincloss. Described in New York Magazine as “the last of the gentlemen novelists,” Auchincloss was an old-fashioned writer whose novels and stories depicted an increasingly arcane and antique-seeming world: that of old money, New England prep schools, Manhattan brownstones and boardrooms, and Long Island estates. Auchincloss has been criticized for being too much a chronicler of the upper crust, but the polished surface of his characters’ lives and his restrained literary style are deceptive. He’s a master at showing the many calibrations and calculations people make to achieve or maintain their place in the world, and this lends his work psychological depth and moral complexity.
Auchincloss wrote more than 30 novels and dozens of volumes of short stories as well as literary criticism that included, appropriately, studies of Edith Wharton and Henry James. He was 92 when he died on January 26.