A Voice from Old New York is not an autobiography.It’s not exactly a memoir either, being generally low on gossip about the author or others.The chapters don’t quite flow into each other, instead each stands on its own. The book feels more like the reader is meeting Louis Auchincloss for coffee or drinks at a quiet hotel bar (upper East Side, please) and listening to him reminisce over over times.
Occasionally he repeats himself or lets drop tantalizing details without filling in the lines. At times you wish he’d dish the dirt a bit more or wonder at his rather set opinions but you can’t help admiring the clarity of his insight into the closed world he knew so intimately. There are not big revelations here. Auchincloss knew both the Bundy brothers (McGeorge and William) and the Dulles brothers (John Foster and Allen) but you’ll find nothing here you won’t find in their biographies. I did find yet another proof point for my personal theory that Nancy Mitford was born a bitter hag and got worse as she aged, not that I needed another.
If you want big statements on society (with and without a capital S), look to his novels and short stories. If you want to spend a few hours – this is a very short book at less then 210 pages – hearing the memories of the master chronicler of 20th Century New York Society.