As he tries to make his life habitable again--after the devastating loss of his wife--retired lawyer Albert Schmidt finds the possibility of regeneration in a new love the old "Schmidtie" would never have dreamt of. Set in the Hamptons and Mahnattan, and laced with black humor, About Schmidt casts a cold, pitiless eye on the eastern seaboard upper class, the last vestiges of once-ascendant WASPs, and the newcomers whose fortunes are rising.
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Albert Schmidt is a retired lawyer who misses his recently deceased wife, has an unhealthy diet, is a mild anti-Semite and owns a nice home in the Hamptons he feels compelled to offer to his daughter as a wedding present. Said daughter, Charlotte, is a yuppie in all the worst ways. She handles public relations for tobacco companies, doesn't want the house in the Hamptons, and is about to marry a buttoned-up Jewish lawyer. The conflict takes off from there in this finely told tale of retirement, inheritance, and death.From the Publisher:
"Novels are supposed to tell something about the real world, but in most
novels about the upper classes money figures only in the decor, the things
that money can buy. Begley's books have the great virtue of knowing about
money itself, how it's acquired and kept.... Begley's previous books
gravitated rather anxiously toward Europe, which was seen as the source
both of any satisfactory culture and of appalling historical and personal
tragedy. About Schmidt turns toward America and the present, exchanging an
interest in suffering and failure, with its dangerous possibilities of
self-magnification, for comic romance, with its emphasis not on finality
but on life going on anyway."
--The New York Review of Books
"Albert Schmidt is another of Begley's brilliant impostors, though this
time an impostor unaware of his charade. He is the cultivated man--out of
Harvard, no less--unable to acknowledge his subtle strain of
Jew-hating.... About Schmidt amounts to an intriguing about-face for
Begley.... By blinding his flawed hero, Begley has painted an indelible
portrait of a man with a hole where his soul should be."
"What emerges... is a poignant study of aging centered on a man whose
flaws become both sinister and sympathetic. In an era of encroaching
coarseness, where civility dissolves... Schmidt summons in us remembrance
of elegance past.... Is he a cultured patrician, a supercilious snob or
both? Whichever he is, Begley succeeds wonderfully in making us care."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Consistently subtle and intelligent, this novel ends by getting under
your skin despite the unlikability of its protagonist. You are left with
the feeling of having found out the complex truth behind the impeccable
facade of someone you might never notice if you met him at a party."
--The New York Times Book Review
"If the sorrows of old 'Schmidtie' strike us as somewhat short of fully
tragic, less than deeply moving, it's clearly intentional; Begley means
for us to keep our distance--to withhold our sympathies--from his smug,
officious hero.... It's this that makes Begley's novel most interesting
--Washington Post/Book World
"In the end, Begley has created a terribly funny, touching, infuriating
and complex character in Schmidt, whose self-deceptions and imprisonment
by his own world-view stand not only as a devastating portrait of a
disappearing world but also sound a strangely evocative cautionary tale."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review
"In what could be called a novel of bad manners, Begley again demonstrates
that he can reveal the complexities of society and personality with a
clear eye and graceful style. Schmidt may not live up to today's strict
standards of political correctness, but he more than meets the
requirements of convincing fiction."
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