Tad Friend’s family is nothing if not illustrious: his father was president of 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, Tad 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.

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