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About Schmidt

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Louis Begley has a flair for lies. About Schmidt, his fourth novel, details the lies that aging WASP attorney Albert Schmidt tells himself after his wife dies: lies about why he doesn’t like his daughter’s Jewish fiance, lies about his shortened law career, lies about the 20-year-old Puerto Rican waitress who may or may not be flirting with him. The book’s cultivated, assured tone makes its flashes of bitterness and anger all the more striking. There’s an especially sharp passage between Schmidt and his daughter’s future mother-in-law, an analyst who almost literally has him on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner. As a whole, About Schmidt is a fine, witty work, though it is marred at the end by a convergence of story lines that’s both forced and unsatisfying. B