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Wasps

The Splendors and Miseries of an American Aristocracy

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An examination of WASP culture through the lives of some of its most prominent figures.  Envied and lampooned, misunderstood and yet distinctly American, WASPs are as much a culture, socioeconomic and ethnic designation, and state of mind.

Charming, witty, and vigorously researced, WASPS traces the rise and fall of this distinctly American phenomenon through the lives of prominent icons from Henry Adams and Theodore Roosevelt to George Santayana and John Jay Chapman.

Throughout this dynamic story, Beran chronicles the efforts of WASPs to better the world around them as well as the struggles of these WASPs to break free from their restrictive culture.  The death of George H. W. Bush brought about reflections on the end of patrician WASP culture, where privilege reigned, but so did a genuine desire to use that privilege for public service.

In the time of Trump—who is the antithesis of true WASP culture—people look at the John Kerry, Bobby Kennedy, and Philip and Kay Grahams of the world with wistfulness.

And even though we are a more diverse and pluralistic nation now than ever before, there is something about WASP culture that remains enduringly aspirational and fascinating.

Beginning at the turn of the 20th century, Beran’s saga dramatizes the evolving American aristocracy that forever changed a nation—and what we can still glean from WASP culture as we enter a new era.

Michael Knox Beran's previous books include Forge of Empires, 1861-1871, The Last Patrician, a study of Robert Kennedy that was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Murder by Candlelight, also available from Pegasus Books.  His writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and the National Review.  He lives in Westchester County, New York.

  • Publisher: Pegasus Books (August 3, 2021)
  • Length: 416 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781643137070

Praise for Murder by Candlelight

“A fascinating new book. Beran asks us to consider our own hearts of darkness, why we're obsessed with murder stories, why this obsession matters, and what it suggests about us as a culture and a species. A witty and engaging narrative, Murder by Candlelight is at once psychological thriller and philosophical meditation, murder mystery and literary analysis, written in elegant and pointed prose. In one skillfully wrought volume, he cleverly feeds our appetite for horror even as he probes this appetite.”
 

– The New York Times Book Review

“Beran darts back to the 18th century and the arrival of Gothic literature, to authors such as Walter Scott and Coleridge, who used poetic language to convey the emotions of violence. Beyond such literary matters, Beran dwells upon real-world murder cases with a special emphasis on three. Beran relishes these stories and tells them with vigor and brio.”

– The Wall Street Journal

“Beran sets out to explore four notable murder cases of the 1800s as covered by period scribes, relying heavily on contemporary sources for his text and dialog. For scholars of the late Romantic period and early crime writing.”

– Library Journal

Praise for The Last Patrician

“Beran is such a lively writer, and such a risk-taking thinker, that the sparks he promiscuously strikes from his literary flint are, cumulatively, illuminating. Beran's slender meditation on Kennedy's truncated life has an unusually high ration of provocations per page. Some readers will angrily throw it across the room. But they will retrieve it, and continue reading, avidly.”

– George F. Will, The New York Times Book Review

“A remarkable achievement. It offers new insights into the character of Robert Kennedy, perhaps the most enigmatic public figure of our time.”

– William Manchester

"A luminous look at Kennedy and at the country he wanted to lead.”

– The Boston Globe

Praise for Murder by Candlelight

“A fascinating new book. Beran asks us to consider our own hearts of darkness, why we're obsessed with murder stories, why this obsession matters, and what it suggests about us as a culture and a species. A witty and engaging narrative, Murder by Candlelight is at once psychological thriller and philosophical meditation, murder mystery and literary analysis, written in elegant and pointed prose. In one skillfully wrought volume, he cleverly feeds our appetite for horror even as he probes this appetite.”
 

– The New York Times Book Review

“Beran darts back to the 18th century and the arrival of Gothic literature, to authors such as Walter Scott and Coleridge, who used poetic language to convey the emotions of violence. Beyond such literary matters, Beran dwells upon real-world murder cases with a special emphasis on three. Beran relishes these stories and tells them with vigor and brio.”

– The Wall Street Journal

“Beran sets out to explore four notable murder cases of the 1800s as covered by period scribes, relying heavily on contemporary sources for his text and dialog. For scholars of the late Romantic period and early crime writing.”

– Library Journal

Praise for The Last Patrician

“Beran is such a lively writer, and such a risk-taking thinker, that the sparks he promiscuously strikes from his literary flint are, cumulatively, illuminating. Beran's slender meditation on Kennedy's truncated life has an unusually high ration of provocations per page. Some readers will angrily throw it across the room. But they will retrieve it, and continue reading, avidly.”

– George F. Will, The New York Times Book Review

“A remarkable achievement. It offers new insights into the character of Robert Kennedy, perhaps the most enigmatic public figure of our time.”

– William Manchester

"A luminous look at Kennedy and at the country he wanted to lead.”

– The Boston Globe