In Cheerful Money (Little, Brown, $24.99), his sweet, loving, but sad memoir of his Wasp family, Tad Friend, a New Yorker staff writer, confides that Wasp parents treat the essence of Waspishness as they do sex, never revealing its secrets to their offspring. As a result, Friend has spent a lifetime learning from others what it means to be a White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant. “Wasps name their dogs after liquor, their cars after dogs, and their children after their ancestors,” Friend discovers. Wasps wear Shetland sweaters and Docksiders; Preppies are often confused with Wasps, but “Preppies are infantile, stuck at age 17, while Wasps emerge from the womb wrinkly and cautious, already vice presidents, already fifty-two.” Friend’s father, a Swarthmore College president, like all good Wasps, was bound by duty, a chronic disposition learned in childhood from “cheerful money, coins deposited in a kitchen jar as a reward for smiling through grim occasions.” By the end of this affectionate family history, the reader will well understand why Wasps are a dying breed.
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