New Yorker writer/ Brooklyn Heights resident Tad Friend is interviewed in the Arizona Republic about his new book, Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor:
Arizona Republic: Question: What is a WASP?
Answer: The standard definition, “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant,” seems to me overly broad. It takes in people like Bill Clinton, who is technically a WASP, but doesn’t really fit anyone’s mental picture of one. Or Elvis Presley, for that matter. But the shorthand definition would be someone with a fancy name who went to a fancy school and grew up mostly in the Northeast.
WASPs, Mr. Friend says in the book, won’t talk about money unless it’s to do with necessary expenses (that rules out any mention of income or elective expenditures). They name their dogs after liquor and their cars after their dogs. They tolerate family members’ eccentricities, as long as they show up for Christmas. And they believe in putting on a good face, especially in hard times.
The book originated with a New Yorker article Mr. Friend wrote in 2006 after the death of his mother Elizabeth Groesbeck Pierson, a complicated woman who put her dreams of writing poetry aside to be a good wife to Theodore “Dorie” Wood Friend III, an historian who became the president of Swarthmore College. His mother would later become an interior designer and painter.