With its multiplicity of settings and kaleidoscopic mix of preoccupations-- from sex to Christian fundamentalism to global thermonuclear war--the highly anticipated memoir by a founding editor of "McSweeney's Quarterly" lets listeners in on Wilsey's wise, electric, and painfully funny true life story. Unabridged. 17 CDs.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
Wilsey's Eggersesque memoir of growing up rich and dysfunctional is dependent for effect on its deadpan, forthright tone of voice, underscoring the impact of his humorous, unsettled childhood. Brick performs this with flair, inhabiting that voice with ease. Born to a wealthy older father and San Franciscan socialite, Wilsey had a childhood that combined overwhelming privilege with an unusual family dynamic (his father divorced his mother and married her best friend). He mines his lonely childhood amid the lap of luxury for its absurdist comic potential, finding nuggets of humor in the wreckage of a fortunate yet empty upbringing. Brick underplays the comic and emotional undercurrents with poker-faced sophistication. His oft-hushed tones belie the comedy of situations; he renders lines like "Sean, I have hot flashes.... I just thought you'd want to know what's going on with your mother" with as little fuss as possible. Capturing Wilsey's knowing, self-mocking tone, Brick's performance of this confusing, bittersweet childhood is, like the book itself, just the right mixture of comic and tragic. Simultaneous release with Penguin hardcover (Reviews, May 2). (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 24, 2006
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Excerpt from Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey
IN THE BEGINNING we were happy. And we were always excessive. So in the beginning we were happy to excess.
WE WERE MOM and Dad and I ' three palindromes! ' and we lived eight hundred feet in the air above San Francisco; an apartment at the top of a building at the top of a hill: full of light, full of voices, full of windows full of water and bridges and hills.
Mom was the center. Mom was irresistible. Whatever she was saying or wearing or smelling of was captivating ' all our senses were attuned to her. As soon as I was old enough to walk I tried on her shoes and evening gowns and perfume, admired and wanted to be like her, so much that they had me seeing a shrink by the time I was three. The shrink said I needed to spend more time with my dad. But how Mom was irresistible.
Mom had published two books ' one about throwing parties, one about battling malevolent ghosts ' and was working on a third, about her childhood in Texas and Oklahoma.
As far as I could tell Dad's job was to please Mom. He was solicitous and full of care. He gave Mom everything she wanted. He helped her want things she did not know to want.
Early every morning, Mom, Dad, and I took walks around Russian Hill in matching blue jumpsuits with white piping, Royal Tenenbaums ' style.
ONE SUNDAY, on a shrink-mandated father-and-son outing, Dad took me across the bay on the ferry, re-creating the commute he made as a boy, before the Golden Gate Bridge was completed, from Catholic school in San Francisco to his home in Marin. Halfway there it started to rain, and we didn't have any umbrellas, so when we arrived we stood in a doorway near the water.
Dad hadn't shaved since Friday morning before work, and he looked rough. Even I could see it. Our matching jumpsuits were sad without Mom. Dad lit a cigarette. We looked out at the water.
A man with a box and an umbrella strode past, glanced at us, stopped fifty feet on, turned, walked back, and handed the box to Dad.
"I can't give you anything else," he said. "But take this."
Dad said, "Thank you," and took the box.
The man looked at me, looked at the ground, walked away.
Dad smoked till the man was out of sight, then he threw his cigarette in the gutter and opened the box.
"He gave us donuts!" I shouted.
Dad looked at me and started chuckling. "That guy thinks we don't have any money." He took a donut, laughed again, and blew powdered sugar out of his mouth.
I ate a glazed, and then a chocolate with sprinkles. Dad ate all the rest, steadily, devouring them with great relish and no preference for jelly over oldfashioned over chocolate or bear claw ' only pleasure, and great amusement.