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My First Cousin Once Removed: Money, Madness, and the Family of Robert Lowell
The art of being truly funny is an undervalued one in these angst-ridden times, but it is an ability that acclaimed novelist Sarah Payne Stuart has in abundance. Her talents have never been on more glorious display than in My First Cousin Once Removed, a memoir--at once hilarious, personal and sad--of her extraordinary Boston Brahmin family, whose most famous member is the ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 20th 1999 by Harper Perennial
(first published September 23rd 1998)
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I find myself chuckling page after page in this entertaining book. Its funny and engaging portrayal of the high life and the low of a renown brahmin family in Boston and environs, (running concurrently to my own such family) is rich in New England Puritan history both period and personal. It is a no-holes-barred memoir of the down-and-out of the upper crust of Boston's pre-eminent social circles of the 1900's. Not only do I come across common ancestors but neighborhood addresses, distinctive tra ...more
For leisure reading, Stuart's family history/biography is one of the best--conversational, humorous, and casually smart. Stuart recounts the Lowell and Winslow WASP family histories all the way back to Puritan times, although she pays particular attention to the generations immediately preceding and following Robert Lowell, the confessional poet. Stuart's task is extremely daunting, since many of us continue to feel resentment toward aristocratic New England WASPs for their class and ethnic priv ...more
For a book about Robert Lowell, it mostly concerns other members of the author's family. It does have some very interesting insights into an old New England family. Some illustrations. I would recommend reading this book before the author's "Perfectly Miserable," as some of that book is a bit mysterious without the information in "My First Cousin Once Removed."
To judge by this memoir Sarah Payne Stuart is--mercifully--less manic and destructive than her famous first cousin once removed, Robert Lowell. Unfortunately, she's also a considerably less talented writer than he was, more goofy than insightful. I found her treatment of the writer Jean Stafford, Lowell's first wife, particularly cruel. This MAY be worth reading for anyone who's read Ian Hamilton's Lowell biography and wants more information about Lowell and his family history from an insider's ...more