Fiction

Article excerpt

TITLE: The Anniversary and Other Stories AUTHOR: Louis Auchincloss DATA: Houghton Mifflin, 192 pages, $25

Review by Polly Paddock Gossett

The richness of Louis Auchincloss' prose well suits the affluence of his cultured New York characters. Auchincloss is one of the best writers in America today, prolifically turning out some of the finest fiction around.

This collection matches the quality of his previous 13: intelligent, witty, with strong, memorably drawn characters.

Auchincloss spans a century with these stories. In The Veterans, the narrator and his cousin have dramatically different responses to similar experiences during the Civil War. Each has moved to Paris, the narrator to work for the American government as a sort of assistant to the ambassador, his cousin to live a life of lush expatriate leisure with his widowed mother.

When the war breaks out, both stay in Paris. Neither wants to fight, and the narrator manages to avoid it with the noble excuse that he is building pro-Union support abroad. His cousin, through fear and political maneuverings on his mother's part, escapes being sent home.

Years later, when both have returned to New York, the cousin's obsession with the war -- and his fictitious depictions of his involvement in it -- leads the narrator to a stunning conclusion.

In the title story, an Episcopal priest, on the eve of a party given in honor of his 25th wedding anniversary, ponders what toast he will give to his wife who left him for another man for several years of their marriage.

In The Interlude, a female lawyer in the 1950s must find other outlets for her creative, intellectual and sexual energy when her father and husband ask her to leave the law firm because she is a woman.

Auchincloss captures his characters at the moment they must make life-altering decisions. This slim volume is a delightful addition to the Auchincloss collection. …