Sean Wilsey grew up rich, pampered, privileged. Home was 800 feet above San Francisco, in a luxury apartment with the kind of view you see on postcards. Early mornings, young Sean and his parents took walks in matching blue jumpsuits with white piping. Their lives, like the scenic splendor out their high-rise windows, seemed perfect. It was an illusion. Wilsey's engrossing memoir, Oh the Glory of It All, is about surviving a childhood that was all but destroyed by childish adults.
Years later, the adult Wilsey today an editor at McSweeney's Quarterly realized there had been warning signs. But as children are wont to do, he allowed them to be obscured by his desperate love for his (selfish) parents and their larger than life personas. He was especially devoted to his society columnist mother, who looked like Marilyn Monroe and hosted to-die-for salons attended by the likes of Joan Baez, Gloria Steinem, Black Panthers, Daniel Ellsberg and others who toured the cultural zeitgeist. As for dad, he was a self-made millionaire (the butter and egg business) who would leave his more famous wife for her (younger) best friend. Up until his parents' split, young Wilsey never even heard them fight.
Theirs was a loud, ugly, headline-making divorce. It was Dallas and Dynasty and Danielle Steel come to life, recalled Wilsey, who became one of those ping-pong children, shuttling back and forth between houses and lives and festering anger. (His drama queen mother once urged him to join her in committing suicide.)Recounted in vivid detail and dialogue, with observations both painful and humorous, especially involving Wilsey's callous stepmother, this memoir is about great wealth, great loss and personal and creative redemption. It's also about coming to terms with reality and responsibility. After shrinks, private schools, drug abuse and other desperate cries for parental approval, Wilsey reaches a crossroads while in a cell at juvenile hall. To turn his life around he examines where he's been and why. The resulting emotional catharsis triggered this book, with its cast of colorful characters, its divine locales and a theme that resonates. Pat H. Broeske is a Southern California-based journalist and biographer.