Cheerful Money

I'm an avid reader. Always have been. But my days of reading books ended with either the candy-like Harry Potter series or more likely, the well known, albeit tired series, "Becoming a Mom, Vol. I - Infinity".

Instead, I've morphed into the avid online reader or the avid mag reader.


And I rarely ask for books for Christmas or birthdays, unless it's a gorgeous one that I want to display on a table or shelf. Or one that might inspire some fantastic evening or meal or athletic feat.

I love giving books...and usually I give them with that sort of longing a mediocre runner might have with a marathon: love to get to that some day or good luck with that! But I do some mighty thorough research on books for my father-in-law (of the conservative, Fox-watching ilk) and my sister-in-law's husband (of the impossible-to-buy-because-of-endless-financial-means ilk).

This year for my birthday or Christmas I generously received three books:
Something on food, sport, and insightful humor. All very key to my state of well being...and getting me through the Boston six months of insufferable winter.

I've thumbed through Julia's tome, I've got the book on running right on my bed stand, but Tad Friend's memoir and clever commentary on all things Wasp has me hooked.

I've always enjoyed reading Tad Friend's contributions in the NYer. I have found his style to be wicked smaht, self-deprecating, and perceptive. I relate. And a book that pokes fun at a family history that's a little like mine is worth my focus and energy.

(photo from the New Yorker)

My background, I would say, is probably more Wasp than not Wasp. To be Wasp also requires a certain economic status that my heritage hasn't really enjoyed.....my disclaimer is that we're more indentured servant-y, farming, laboring drones Wasps as opposed to the money-ed, entrepreneurial Industrial Age Wasps.

While the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Astors were creating wealth my people were probably standing in an open field with earth under their finger nails. Or actually, probably more likely talking about what pig should be slaughtered for dinner. And how the potatoes will be mashed.

(A non-relation Colonial Farmer from flickr)

My DNA goes back to something like 1630 and Anthony Colby getting New Hampshire land from King George. That's my mom's side. On my dad's side, the Halls came over in the early 1700's. Both families owned land and farmed. We are hearty, chatty, and we love nothing more than having a good laugh at ourselves. And farming is the one constant throughout these dozens of generations. Maybe that would explain my dad's ambition to raise his kids in Kansas?

Mr. Friend's anecdotal story weaves you through his background to present day, explaining the whys and the wherefores of his and general Waspiness. I've always thought I had a handle on Wasp. I get the blue blood thing. I know about American Nobility and the Social Register. But I wasn't aware of the Wasp Code of Conduct necessarily, which Mr. Friend chronicles throughout this book. A brief sampling:

"Wasps name their dogs after liquor and their cars after dogs and their children after their ancestors." (‡)

"Waspiness is an overlay on human character, like the porcelain veneer that protects the biting surface of a damaged tooth." (‡‡)


"Life is a scavenger hunt run backward as well as forward, a race to comprehend. But with Wasps, the caretakers lock the explanatory sorrows away, then swallow the key." (‡‡‡)

I am thoroughly enjoying this book. I find it brilliant and funny. And personal. The personal part not exactly Wasp. I'm half-way through and don't wish it to end when I'll just have to go back to ezines.

You may never see me post a book recommendation again, unless it's Tintin or the latest Newbery Medal winner. I heartily endorse this book. Cheerful Money. It brought me back from the no-I-don't-read-books world to the hunched-over-my-book-I-can't-hear-you world.

‡, Tad Friend, Cheerful Money, page 144.
‡‡ Ibid, pg. 86
‡‡‡ Ibid, pg. 20


Unknown said...

This is a great post, Karen...loved reading it. Time mothering and on the internet has engendered a touch of ADHD in all of us, and I agree that reading is what suffers most. For a great laugh on WASPiness, check out the episode of Will & Grace in which Will avoids acknowledging his father's infidelity.

Karen @ BonjourBruxelles said...

Ooo, I will totally check out the W&G episode. Nothing cracks me up more than witnessing someone's version of Waspy repression. It's like looking into a mirror.

northsidefour said...

Karen, picked it up, put it down, thinking I had too many books. Per your reccomendation, I am off to pick it up again.

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