BOOKS: COMEDY OF BAD MANNERS

LAWYERS, ANTI-SEMITISM, THE HAMPTONS--YIKES!

Early retired and recently widowed, Albert Schmidt is at a lonely but attractive crossroads, contemplating his fate somewhere in Bridgehampton, Long Island, a summer sporting grounds for New York City's diverse meritocracy. Schmidt's own credentials are hard-earned: a sheepskin from Harvard and a partnership at a leading Manhattan law firm. He also belongs to a high caste: the Wasp establishment that first built the shingled 14-room "cottages" and exclusive country clubs of the Hamptons.

Louis Begley's About Schmidt (Knopf; 274 pages; $23) peels back a layer or two of this weekend world, where the old gentry and gregarious newcomers have little...

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