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Auchincloss's sly look into the `Diary of a Yuppie'

By Carol desLauriers Cieri / September 12, 1986



Diary of a Yuppie, by Louis Auchincloss. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 215 pp. $16.95. There may be nothing compelling about the prospect of dipping into the stream of a yuppie's consciousness. But then, ``Diary of a Yuppie'' is written by old-fashioned upper-crust Louis Auchincloss, who has written 38 books around a law practice in trusts and estates. And so the question becomes (as they say in the law), what does Mr. Auchincloss think yuppies think?

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His yuppie is Robert Service, a 32-year-old corporation lawyer well on his way to a partnership. But Mr. Service is beginning to feel that senior members of his firm ``lack the vitality and keenness needed to fight cases of increasing toughness and complexity.''

Translation: They lack the killer instinct.

Maybe he has joined the wrong firm.

Alice, his wife, seems appalled at the man he is becoming. Maybe, Service wonders, she thinks she married the wrong man.

Service walks out on his firm, taking the best clients and associates with him; Alice walks out on Bob and their two children.

It is a story of the making and breaking of partnerships and the role of service (get it?) in the professions. It also may well be one of the author's best, certainly his most sly.

Auchincloss's novels are sometimes marked by writing that includes pretentious references and spots of pompous tone and dialogue. Because ``Diary of a Yuppie'' is written as the journal of Bob Service, Auchincloss seems to incorporate these traits into a masterful, perhaps satirical, portrait.

Auchincloss is, of course, examining the upwardly mobile middle class and the novel has the detached feel of those 18th-century scientific tracts that were written by men of leisure. He might as well be examining a bug -- or a ``monster,'' as one of his characters calls the man in this journal.

But Auchincloss keeps his hand steady and conquers what distaste he might feel. Service's success is no moral triumph and that is, perhaps, a measure of our time.