Renata Adler on Charitable Giving and Young Folk

For your consideration, Brendan O’Connor submits this passage from Renata Adler’s Speedboat (1976):

About money. When we had come from our public schools and our private schools, and our travels abroad, and our own education to our first solid jobs in the city, one of our golden couples gave a party to raise funds. The cause was desperate and just. Five haggard members of the group whose cause it was spoke eloquently on the terrace, sang sad songs, and afterward stood among us in the living room. There were servants. There was a bartender. The first odd thing was that the cups were plastic, and the brands of Scotch, gin, bourbon, even beer, were unknown brands. We knew that charities ought not to waste money on overhead. But when the awkward moment of collection came, our most successful lawyer reached into his pocket and came up with change. One of the wives, who was just becoming known in fashion circles for her clothes, opened her purse, hesitated, and brought out a crumpled dollar bill. Checkbooks came out on every side. Checks for three dollars, two dollars, even a check for four dollars and eighty-two cents, were signed with a flourish and passed along. It became clear: nobody under forty gives anything to charity. Martin and Iris do contribute to the arts, but Martin wants to be on boards of trustees with the fathers of friends he went to Harvard with. A lot of the under-twenty-fives give every cent they have to weird sects they want to get their head together with. But nobody, as a matter of course, any longer tithes.

I personally will agree that no one tithes, though I would love to hear more about these weird sects people were giving all their money to. In my case it’s the secular sect of red wine and iced coffees, but I don’t think that’s what she is talking about.

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