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OLD MONEY The Mythology of America's Upper Class by Nelson W. Aldrich Jr. (Vintage: $8.95)

September 17, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

A scion of the Aldrich and Rockefeller families, the author writes with first-hand knowledge about the problems and popular images of people who inherit large sums of money. The need to prove that they have some worth beyond their unearned wealth often leads heirs into desperate self-indulgence or charity work and politics. George Bush, who comes from a wealthy family, had to overcome the stereotype of the rich boy as wimp in his presidential campaign.

Middle-class readers who have to struggle with monthly bills and the cost of housing in Southern California may find it difficult to sympathize with people whose lives have been cushioned by trust funds, estates and servants. But as the gap between rich and poor widens in this country, "Old Money" offers valuable insights into the group that threatens to monopolize wealth and power in America.

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