THE COLLECTED STORIES OF LOUIS AUCHINCLOSS
By Louis Auchincloss
Houghton Mifflin 465pp $24.95
If you care to know how Lester Gordon acquired control of Atlantic Enterprises with Atlantic's money, resulting in the loss of his own companies, his reputation, and his wife, you must consult the Wall Street law firm of Arnold & Degener. And the only way to do that is through the fiction of New York attorney Louis Auchincloss, whose short story The Money Juggler describes Gordon's fall. This septuagenarian writer's stock-in-trade for nearly 50 years has been a rich inventory of imaginary law firms and businessmen and the WASP Establishment of old New York. His credentials for both can't be faulted: years at Sullivan & Cromwell, membership in a patrician New York family. He also writes like an angel.
In the Age of Newt and O.J., Auchincloss seems old-fashioned. Introducing these 19 stories, he acknowledges that his method of telling a tale that can range over years owes more to Edith Wharton and Henry James than to current fashion. Yet his subject matter demands his use of the slow windup. The rise and fall of law firms or family businesses is brought slowly to the boil.
Auchincloss is concerned with the constraints governing conduct within an organization--and the comeuppance that awaits those who transgress. Anyone in business will immediately recognize the principals of such tales as The Colonel's Foundation and The Mavericks as people they've met before.