Cheever, Marquand, O'Hara, and other Trad Books

raincoat

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
There have been many threads on this topic, here's the biggest one I could find:

https://askandyaboutclothes.com/community/showthread.php?t=74527&highlight=books

Most of these threads go off on tangents and none of them are very extensive.

One poster coined the phrase "the three Johns" to mean John Cheever, John O'Hara, and John Marquand, probably the three most talked about authors on this forum. I first heard of John O'Hara and John Marquand from one of those threads and have since read several of their books.

I'd like to add that while most have recommended early O'Hara like Appointment in Samarra, and Butterfield 8, and rightfully so, those are probably his best novels, many of the class signifiers and class issues that would probably interest members of the forum are found in more detail in his later less well recieved novels and in his always well recieved short stories.

And while Marquand's The Late George Apley and Point of No Return are often recommended among his other major novels (and they are really good), he wrote less serious books and stories which are easier and more light hearted glimpses into that New England class. For example, I found Life at Happy Knoll, a satire of country club life that was apparently serialized in Sports Illustrated magazine before being collected, an extremely entertaining read.

Everybody knows John Cheever. I've still not read any of his novels but have read a majority of the short stories. I just picked up a copy of The Wapshot Chronicle and plan on reading it this winter break.

As for other books and authors, here are some that I've found, in no order:

Fiction (the first 6 are also included on the reading list p. 59 of the OPH):
J. D. Salinger (from high school)
by John Knowles, A Seperate Peace (also from high school)
by James Hilton, Goodbye, Mr. Chips
by James McPhee, The Headmaster
by Richard Yates, A Good School
by Louis Auchincloss, The Rector of Justin
by Tobias Wolff, Old School
by Geoffrey Wolff, The Final Club
by Donna Tartt The Secret History
by Mary Mccarthy, The Group

Also listed in the OPH (in case someone doesn't have one and is interested):
by Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
by Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays
by Robert Anderson, Tea and Sympathy
anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald (of course)
by Erich Segal, Love Story (I also read, I'm embarrassed to say, The Class)
Decline and Fall and anything else by Evelyn Waugh
by James Kirkwood, Good Times/Bad Times
by Owen Johnson, Lawrencville Stories
by Ronald Searle, The Belles of St. Trinian's
by Geoffrey Wolff, The Duke of Deception
by John Irving, The World According to Garp
anything by George Plimpton and William F. Buckley, Jr.

Memoirs:
by Annie Dillard, An American Childhood (which has become one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors after having read the recommendation on this forum)
by George Howe Colt, The Big House
WFBjr.'s Miles Gone By

The recent biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates by Blake Bailey are terrific if intimidating in their size (at least to me).

Class, by Paul Fussell, works as a longer more thorough Preppy Handbook.

by Nelson W. Aldrich, jr., Old Money

Not completely related but maybe interesting to some of you is Racing Odysseus by Roger Martin about, among other things, a traditional liberal arts education. I can't remember where I heard of this book but it may have been on this forum. I wish I had known about St. John's College in Maryland when I was in high school.

The Great Books or Harvard Classics?

From the previous thread here are some more recommendations collected:

Many great works have been cited already. But I'll add David Riesman's The Lonely Crowd as the key work of Trad non-fiction along with:

The Significance of the Frontier in American History by Frederick Jackson TaylorAnything by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Jefferson (six volumes) by Dumas Malone
The Road to Serfdom by Frederick Hayek
History of Civilization by Will & Ariel Durant
Marlborough by Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill by Martin Gilbert
the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
FDR trilogy by Kenneth S. Davis
God and Man at Yale by WFB
The Protestant Work Ethic and Spirit of American Capitalisim by Max Weber (best English translation is by Talcott Parsons)
Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
Anything by Theodore Roosevelt

Non-fiction
Anyhting by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Owen Wister, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Theodore Drieser, Louis Bromfield, WFB, Herman Melville, and Louis Auchincloss

Deliverance by Iames Dickey

This post was attacked last time around. The main issue raised was "what makes a book trad?" I don't think there needs to be too much debate here as most of us have difficulty defining trad itself. If you think the book is trad, post it. If you think the previous poster's recomendations have some hidden agenda, point it out, or don't.

Just remembered this one:

In Defense of Elitism by William A. Henry III. Excellent.

As for books, anything written by P.G. Wodehouse.

Books:
The Compleat Angler - Izaak Walton
Complete Manual for Young Sportsmen - Frank Forester
Lord Chesterfield's Letters
Anything by William Faulkner or Shelby Foote

Roger Duncan, A Cruising Guide to the New England Coast: Including the Hudson River, Long Island Sound, and the Coast of New Brunswick

For the record, my favorite books are the Jack Aubry Series by Patrick O'Brian (20 volumes). In my opinion some of the best fiction ever written in the English language. Not tradly, (except maybe in a Napoleonic way) but quite good.

Scott

2. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne - only fits b/c it has special significance with the Yale Skull and Bones, despite the fact that it's a rather odd book from the 18th century.
3. Rule of Four by Caldwell and Thomason. Not a great book, but the focus of this mystery is on Princeton eating clubs and it's written by a couple of young Ivy alums (one Princeton, one Harvard).

Off the top of my head:

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
Vanity Fair by William Thackeray
The Lawrenceville Stories by Owen Johnson
Coningsby by Benjamin Disraeli
Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis (book; and movie with Rosalind Russell)
The Federalist by various contributors
Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson
The Twelve Caesars by Seutonius
Southern Ladies and Gentlemen by Florence King (anything by Miss King, a professional misanthrope with a silver pen, is worth looking into.)
The Letters of Wallace Stevens by Wallace Stevens

--A.Q.

The Theory of the Leisure Class - Thorsten Veblen

Alcoholics Anonymous and Plutarch's Lives. :)

I just finished a novel called "Matters of Honor" by Begley, which I think folks here will like. It's about 3 roommates at Harvard in the early 50s and their lifelong friendship. One's Jewish and wants nothing more than to fit in with the WASPy set, one's a from an old family from the Berkshires and is dealing with alcoholic parents, and the third looks and seems old money, but his family is really new money.

There are several passages that discuss their clothing, and even a few references to buying clothing at Keezer's.

I thought it was an excellent book aside from being "trad," but whatever definition folks use as a "trad" book, I think this will qualify.

I can't reccomend enough the work of E. Digby Baltzell. He wrote about the American upper class from the guilded age to the 1960s and 1970s. He isn't as dense as other professional historians/sociologists. His stuff is great check out "sporting gentlemen" his history of Tennis.

I'll also add Sir Walter Scott's Waverley novels referenced many times in The Late George Apley as being Thomas Apley's favorite books.

Oh, does anyone have The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook? I've been meaning to get a copy. Is it worth the trouble?

OK, I've tried to collect as much as I could. I'm sure I've forgotten some and I'm certain there are more books of this (sort of vague) style that I've not heard of. That's what this thread is for. Hopefully it's not too redundant.

Since this is also one of my first posts on the forum, here is a little about how I got here. Around a year ago I found an old copy of the Official Preppy Handbook on my parents book shelf. I've grown up and continue to live in Texas so the culture of New England is far removed from me. Anyway, just before I'd monogrammed everything in my possesion (just kidding) I found this forum. I started collecting books on the subject (of that New England class) based on the many recommendations from previous threads.
 

TradMichael

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Nice topic.

I very recently discovered what may be a forgotten trad giant, considered by some who would know as one of the greatest novelists of the last century, James Gould Cozzens. He was a popular name in the 40s and 50s but his star crashed with the onset of the counterculture, who were antithetical to his uncompromising traditionalism. It apparently got to the point that Updike publically mocked his latter-day work. I've just gotten ahold of a few of his books and the definitive bio, and will report in a few weeks.

Anything in the House of Scribner is total 20th century American Trad (F. Scott, Hemingway, Wolfe, Dos Passos, Lardner, Wharton, Rawlings, Nancy Hale, and so on).

Most of the minor figures are really just period lit now (Bromfield, Caldwell and so on), possibly amusing for the "retro" aspect but not divine.

Across the Atlantic there's Conrad, Waugh as you mentioned, and one of the finest, Sir Compton Mackenzie. Everyone should take the time to read Sinister Street, preferably when in his twenties. It could be the best of the "campus" novels and is great reading.

All their trademark decadence aside, I know the Brat Pack were considered trad and preppy. I've been thinking that maybe The Secret History is more allegorical than most people might have picked up on. Bret Ellis hits his notes highest in The Rules of Attraction.


The recent biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates by Blake Bailey are terrific if intimidating in their size (at least to me).

Bailey had a short story this past year in the (despicable hipster) mag Vice, and it was great, quite tradly---I think the only problem was an abrupt and unsatisfying ending. Maybe it'd been mangled in editing.


They're both useful but each has its own biases, omissions and agendas. I'd add the Modern Library too---the size is good for reading, they're affordable, and I like how they look on a shelf. Maybe I'll have to take some pics. I have a couple of good shelves of books in this theme, too:

Roger Duncan, A Cruising Guide to the New England Coast: Including the Hudson River, Long Island Sound, and the Coast of New Brunswick
 

P Hudson

Super Member
Harvard Yard by William Martin might qualify as pulp-trad.

For another book with a chapter set in Harvard (1910 iirc) there is Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury--an amazing, challenging book that just barely qualifies because (1) it may be considered southern trad; and (2) it does have that chapter in Harvard.
 

boatshoe

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I very recently discovered what may be a forgotten trad giant, considered by some who would know as one of the greatest novelists of the last century, James Gould Cozzens. He was a popular name in the 40s and 50s but his star crashed with the onset of the counterculture, who were antithetical to his uncompromising traditionalism. It apparently got to the point that Updike publically mocked his latter-day work. I've just gotten ahold of a few of his books and the definitive bio, and will report in a few weeks.

This reminds me that Terry Teachout recently wrote about Cozzens and Guards of Honor in the October 5th copy of National Review.

Your mention of Cozzens also reminds me of John P. Marquand, who was similarly mocked by the literary establishment after a period of success following the publication of Point of No Return in 1949. Incidentally, Marquand was also recently mentioned by Teachout in NR. Here's an excerpt:

"The latter-day eclipse of Marquand’s reputation is explicable, if not quite understandable. He was a Trollope-like chronicler of New England manners who lacked Trollope’s charm, and his smoothly flowing prose was more workmanlike than stylish. Solid competence, not arresting individuality, was his literary line. Yet several of his books had the root of the matter in them, and one in particular strikes me as little short of masterly. Point of No Return, published in 1949, is the story of an ambitious boy from a small town in Massachusetts who makes his way to Manhattan, there to become the vice president of a small private bank — and to find that the promotion he has sought since returning from the war is mysteriously unfulfilling.

If any of this sounds suspiciously familiar, it’s because Marquand was one of the first novelists to explore the lingering disquiet felt by a generation of American businessmen whose lives were upended by World War II. Charles Gray, the protagonist of Point of No Return, was the original man in the gray flannel suit, unable to see why the world he left behind was no longer capable of satisfying him." - NR 11/23/09
 

TradMichael

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
This reminds me that Terry Teachout recently wrote about Cozzens and Guards of Honor in the October 5th copy of National Review.

Your mention of Cozzens also reminds me of John P. Marquand, who was similarly mocked by the literary establishment after a period of success following the publication of Point of No Return in 1949. Incidentally, Marquand was also recently mentioned by Teachout in NR.

Interesting. Glad to know that someone is still thinking about these writers. There was a piece about Marquand in Time (ca 1960) that mentions the Cozzens / Marquand New England connection:
 

TradMichael

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Tom Wolfe, I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS

Fantastic novel. Set in the trashbin of now, yet Trad all the way. Status quo universally panned it, couldn't hide their anger. Smarter than anything the Brat Pack did and just as stylish. Really one of the top novels of this new century.

Marisha Pessl, SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS

I'm not sure (yet) what to make of Pessl, but there's no denying that this is a very Trad novel. I don't want to give anything away but if you enjoy mid-century culture and old-school tradliness, you'll revel in the thousand or so references she throws out in the pages of this book.
 

ASF

Senior Member
more Marquand and Auchincloss

You missed some of Marquand's others....

BF's Daughter
HM Pulham
Sincerely, Willis Wade
Wickford Point

as well as many novels and short stories by Auchincloss.

asf
 

Bermuda

Senior Member
I'm afraid that if I read any of Cheever or O' Hara's books, it will feel like just another F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. The characters long to be in the upper class and come from poor backgrounds, etc....
 

blastandcast

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Southern Trad

May I suggest Neal Holland Duncan's triology about New Orleans (Baby Soniat, Carnival of Souls and Naked in Rhodendrons) and Bachelor Society by Charles Poulnot which is about Charleston. Both are entertaining reads about the older families of both towns and how they adjust (or don't) to the changes in both towns. The undercurrents of all of these novels is that "progress" is destroying the unique sense of place which make up the traditions and culture of both societies. The wardrobe of the main characters would be familiar to most members of this board (for example, the protagonist of Duncan's novels is described as wearing weejuns, Brooks Brother button down and madras bermuda shorts). B&C
 

raincoat

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Was about to post this in the American Trad Men thread but thought it might go better here. See how many authors you can name without looking at the listing. From the October 1973 special issue commemorating its fortieth anniversary:

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1 John Kenneth Galbraith
2 Tom Wolfe
3 Nora Ephron
4 Ernest Hemingway
5 Robert Alan Aurthur
6 Murray Kempton
7 John Updike
8 William Styron
9 Gay Talese
10 Thomas Wolfe
11 William Faulkner
12 Phillip Roth
13 Dwight Macdonald
14 F. Scott Fitzgerald
15 James Baldwin
16 John O'Hara
17 John Steinbeck
18 Saul Bellow
19 H.L. Mencken
20 Dorothy Parker
21 Irwin Shaw
22 Richard H. Rovere
23 Truman Capote
24 Vladmir Nabokov
25 Peter Bogdanovich
26 Garry Wills
27 Richard Joseph
28 Leon Trotsky
29 Ralph Ellison
30 Tennessee Williams
31 Malcolm Muggeridge
32 Sinclair Lewis
33 Gore Vidal
34 John Sack
35 Arnold Gingrich
36 John Dos Passos
37 Thomas Berger
38 John Cheever
39 Laurence Stallings
 
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phyrpowr

Honors Member
Raincoat, your pix didn't show on my computer, but I was pleased to ID what you referred to, and get my old copy off the shelf.
 

raincoat

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Raincoat, your pix didn't show on my computer, but I was pleased to ID what you referred to, and get my old copy off the shelf.

Hopefully that problem is fixed now. I was having trouble resizing the pictures (they were way too big) and had to mess with the files but now everything should be sorted out.
 
What a great collage..
I'm not one to pile on the new Esquire, they seem to want to be a men's fashion mag, and do a good job of it.
But they had some amazing writers working for them

as for the rest of this thread, I hesitate to read it, my "to read" pile is too big already, don't need to be adding more.
 

rsmeyer

Super Member
What a great collage..
I'm not one to pile on the new Esquire, they seem to want to be a men's fashion mag, and do a good job of it.
But they had some amazing writers working for them

as for the rest of this thread, I hesitate to read it, my "to read" pile is too big already, don't need to be adding more.
The current Esquire is dreck; the old one was superb.
 

Congresspark

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
A Summons to Memphis and Collected Stories by Peter Taylor.

Life Studies by Robert Lowell.

Cheever writes the most marvelous sentences. Despite the tweed jacket and sweater on the commuter train platform (see cover of the Library of America edition of the Collected Stories) he's a fiendish satirist, not a portraitist of earnest striving.

For those who love the American literary tradition: https://www.loa.org/highlights/?gclid=COG2qo_HjaACFQtx5QodUUzkgA
 
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Joe Beamish

Elite Member
Cheever is too complicated to be labelled a satirist. His universe is a mix of good and bad in equal measure, and his voice doesn't indulge in any satirical distancing: he's part of the same lump. There's no sense that human folly is something to be avoided or transcended except in momentary flights. The moral is to embrace life, celebrate it, keep one's chin up. Satire is only part of the story.



A Summons to Memphis and Collected Stories by Peter Taylor.

Life Studies by Robert Lowell.

Cheever writes the most marvelous sentences. Despite the tweed jacket and sweater on the commuter train platform (see cover of the Library of America edition of the Collected Stories) he's a fiendish satirist, not a portraitist of earnest striving.

For those who love the American literary tradition: https://www.loa.org/highlights/?gclid=COG2qo_HjaACFQtx5QodUUzkgA
 

Congresspark

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
That's a very nice appreciation of Cheever. Thanks.

My sense of the satiric quality of his writing may have been sharpened by reading the very interesting biography and getting a clearer sense of the complicated balance of distance and attraction between his life and the life he wrote about. He reminds me a lot of Hawthorne in that way. I don't think to recognize or even to emphasize the satiric streak in the work diminishes the pathos or the possibilities of second chances he offers. And I think I like him all the better for the satiric edge.

I was out on the x-c skis in the local park a few weeks ago, when I heard a voice call out, "Jupiter, Jupiter!" and then a great bounding retriever came into view. Fans of "The Country Husband" will understand my pleasure at that.

I hope no one will mind a second plug for the wonderful Peter Taylor.
 
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