Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor

by Tad Friend

Paperback, 2010

Call number

305.5 FRI



Back Bay Books (2010), Edition: 1, 384 pages


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.

Media reviews

While “Cheerful Money” is hedged about by a certain chilly intelligence, the pain on display between the lines feels genuine indeed. It’s enough to leave a reader hoping that Friend’s young children will spend their own lives at a healthy distance from the family tree.
1 more
Friend reconstructs a string of family secrets—including the circumstances under which his maternal grandfather left his family, buried under a nest of falsehoods by his cheerfully distant mother. These, he uses as a prism for viewing his duty of ministering to his own lonely dad and contemplating his children’s birth. But he builds on the opportunity to play archaeologist to a disappearing stratum of culture, not just a familial decline.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Schmerguls
5601. Cheerful Money Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor, by Tad Friend (read 5 Dec 2018) I had this book and for no good reason decided to read it, and since I usually finish books I start I did finish it. There seems little point to the account which the author, now a writer for the New Yorker, tells of himself, his family, their social status, and their lives which I found of minimal interest. Before the author finally married he did lots of fornicating,which he blandly tells of, to my boredom. He spends years seeing a psychologist, for no reason which made sense to me. He writes clearly but I could find no reason to hail his life and existence.… (more)
LibraryThing member ccayne
Wonderful memoir. Wasp culture in the northeast, including a private community, Georgica, reminds me of the Ausable Club culture. I loved the family and could relate to much of it. Friend was very honest about the effect of his upbringing and his lengthy analysis.
LibraryThing member eas311
I'm all about WASPs. This book was a fascinating family history, but much less funny than I was led to believe. That's okay though.
LibraryThing member bobbieharv
I read his story in the New Yorker about his relationship with his mother and liked it, so I thought I'd like this book - also since I live in Swarthmore where his father was president of the college in the 70s. The openness he had about his mother seems to have disappeared, perhaps because of the reaction he got from his family. His father, for instance, complained of his emotional coldness or sterility. It seems Friend reacted with even more sterility. Every time he began to write about himself, he quickly retreated into stories about his ancestors, or the contents of their houses. Any genuine feelings Friend might have had were chased off with endless descriptions of his boring materialistic relatives, or endless name-dropping, or endless enumerations of possessions. He disliked Swarthmore, feeling much more at home on the Main Line, and that explains a lot to those of us who live here.… (more)




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