False Gods

 
9780094719804: False Gods

In this elegant collection of stories, Louis Auchincloss once again evokes the beguiling, complex world of New York society that he has made his own special literary landscape. Inspired by the colorful mosaic of ancient Greek myths, he has created six equally rich contemporary fables €” six lives governed by false gods.
Hermes, or in Auchincloss's ironic interpretation, "god of the self-made man," is a Jewish lawyer who finds acceptance into WASP society only at greatest personal cost; Hephaestus is a bachelor designer of Palladian villas whose young bride, enamored of newfangled things, compels him to "go modern." In other stories, a former World War II naval officer, guided perhaps by the goddess Athene, escapes a sinking cruise ship by disguising himself as a woman; and a Catholic convert, distracted by the muse Polyhymnia, is torn between his priestly duties and his worldly social and artistic ambitions.
In every tale a unique moral sensibility holds sway, revealing how the pagan impulse may surface in the most unlikely and provocative situations, compromising even the noblest of spirits. Keenly insightful, flawlessly executed, False Gods is the work of a master storyteller, widely acclaimed as American society's most entertaining and intelligent critic.

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About the Author:

Louis Auchincloss was honored in the year 2000 as a "Living Landmark" by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. He has written more than sixty books, including the story collection Manhattan Monologues and the novel The Rector of Justin. The president of the Academy of Arts and Letters, he resides in New York City.

From Kirkus Reviews:

The title of Auchincloss's latest fiction is a variation on his Golden Calves (1988), but his moral sensibility remains the same--an insider's understanding of the sins and vanities of upper- class Manhattanites. In these six stories, Auchincloss recasts Greek myth into contemporary fable--none of his errant protagonists are one- dimensional fools or miscreants, but good men led astray by anger, ambition, fashion, and other all-consuming passions. In ``Ares, God of War,'' a Virginia gentleman allows his antebellum sense of honor to degenerate into postwar revenge as an unethical New York lawyer. ``Hermes, God of the Self-Made Man'' is a tale worthy of the best Howells--a successful Yale-educated lawyer during the first half of this century sacrifices love, loyalty, and his identity as a Jew for his ambitions, all of which he justifies by his sense of victimization. In ``Hephaestus, God of Newfangled Things,'' a once- brilliant architect regrets the compromises he made in marriage and career. A crisis of faith underpins ``Polyhymnia, Muse of Sacred Song,'' in which an asexual son of a society matron converts to Catholicism, only to abandon his vocation in a burst of Protestant doubt about Roman dogmatism. ``Charity, Goddess of Our Day'' examines the little-noticed (but perhaps greatest) vanity of the rich, and asks: Charity at what cost? A retired lawyer proposes a morally dubious estates scheme to a wealthy dowager, but is chastened by his own wife. ``Athene, Goddess of the Brave'' strikes a therapeutic note: a grown-up mamma's boy, plagued throughout his life by fears of unmanliness and cowardice, confronts his demons after a particularly humiliating event. In the great world of Auchincloss, the ends never justify the means, and the rich are held to the highest of ethical standards. This may not be a major addition to the author's oeuvre, but it's an always welcome message, delivered with grace and elegance. -- Copyright 1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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