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Oh the Glory of it All

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  4,107 ratings  ·  394 reviews
"In the beginning we were happy. And we were always excessive. So in the beginning we were happy to excess." With these opening lines Sean Wilsey takes us on an exhilarating tour of life in the strangest, wealthiest, and most grandiose of families. Sean's blond-bombshell mother (one of the thinly veiled characters in Armistead Maupin's bestselling Tales of the City) is a 1 ...more
Paperback, 504 pages
Published April 25th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published May 19th 2005)
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The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsNight by Elie WieselAngela's Ashes by Frank McCourtEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Best Memoir / Biography / Autobiography
453rd out of 3,172 books — 3,556 voters
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Best Strange and Twisted Memoirs
80th out of 275 books — 817 voters

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Community Reviews

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Ted Gideonse
Having worked in publishing, I too often asked myself while reading Oh the Glory of It All, "How the Hell did this get published?" And I did not ask this question because I thought the book was bad. No, it's great. It's weird and funny and engrossing and moving and it takes you to places mostly everyone has never been to. But American publishing doesn't like 450 page memoirs that are weird and long, and this one was published by a major house. I guess the child of famous people gets a leg up in ...more
I read this book because I wanted to find out what this editor of McSweeney's own writing is like. The answer: derivative and boring. Wilsey says his family was "like the Royal Tenenbaums." Instead of describing one of his boarding schools, he says the school was like a clinic in a Haruki Murakami book...and then quotes half a chapter from Murakami's Norwegian Wood. The last fifty pages are about Wilsey struggling to finish his memoir after getting his advance.
Happily, I only paid $4 for this b
Sep 28, 2007 Candace rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of memoirs, like myself
I love memoirs. Let that be known before I say anything else. I enjoy reading about people's lives, if they're written about in a cool way. I wasn't sure about this one at first, as it started out fairly slow, and Sean Wilsey's writing style takes a while to get used to. I read about his childhood as the only child of two self-obsessed San Francisco socialites, until they went through an ugly divorce, and I was less than impressed. It was a bit dull, I suppose, with tons and tons of outside sour ...more
Alec Scott
McSweeney's editor Sean Wilsey has come out with a memoir which paints compelling (to me at least) scenes from bygone San Francisco. It also has an alluring title, Oh, the Glory of it All -- more on this shortly.

His parents are outsized figures and bestride mid-century San Francisco: Father Al Wilsey was the Bay Area's butter baron, a big game hunter, and helicopter pilot; his mother Pat, the beautiful daughter of an itinerant Evangelical preacher, who becomes a model, then writer, columnist, an
Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey is an autobiography. In theory it has the potential for a good story. Sean Wilsey and his parents are not people I have heard of before but they have travelled in circles that include the rich and the famous. Sean's parents divorced when he was young and the story of their divorce was a major news event in San Francisco. His father went on to re-marry (an evil step mum), his mother went on to set up a Children for Peace organisation (and has now written her ...more
Sep 08, 2007 Sierra rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: social climbers, fans of crunchy memoirs
I found myself alternately annoyed and enthralled by this book, which sports quite a few of those funny/trenchant moments that make great memoirs. It also provides many opportunities for silly-rich-people rubbernecking; in an attempt to highlight the flamboyant hypocrisy of the world's society pages, Sean Wilsey quotes extensively from newspaper reports of his family's ostentatious doings. More often than not, though, I found myself thinking, "Does anyone actually still read these things? Haven' ...more
Jul 24, 2007 Drew rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: narcaleptics
Shelves: memoirsbios
I finished this, and I'm still wondering how I managed to. I heard a lot of buzz about it before it came out, how it was supposed to be scandalous and whatnot. Well, unless you are a huge fan of the San Francisco gossip columns (since the 70's) you won't find anything too interesting here, beyond the first chapter. It seems like an open letter to a family from an emotionally wounded son, yet it goes on for a few too many hundred pages.
Near the end of this, Wilsey writes, "I can't wait to write about something besides myself." Well, good, because I can't wait to read about something besides you. It took me months to read this. I took a break to read another book that was almost 1,000 pages that I finished, in comparison, within a couple weeks of picking it up.

Nearly 500 pages of tiny print covering the pages almost entirely. That's a lot for any book, and particularly so for a memoir of dreary content and forced humor.

I can't
Dec 20, 2007 Kirstie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in celebrity life
This follows the autobiographical (though I am sure rather embellished) account of the son of a famous millionaire family (the Wilseys) on the West coast of America. Life must be weird when you grew up around Danielle Steele and I would guess things could only get better from then on. Our protagonist is a wreck and can't seem to get over the separation and divorce of his parents. While it's true that their relationships becomes strained with him caught in the middle and that he is not given the ...more
Larry Hoffer
I've been on a bit of a memoir kick recently, perhaps in an effort to prove to myself my life isn't all that messed up or bizarre. This book is the story of Sean Wilsey, who grew up a child of privilege in San Francisco, raised by his socialite mother and wealthy father...until the bottom dropped out when his parents divorce and his father remarries. Bounced between both households, treated horrendously by his stepmother and stepbrothers, Sean's life becomes increasingly more chaotic as he rebel ...more
Julie McNelis
Apr 05, 2008 Julie McNelis rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who need a long obsessive book to read
Addicting Obsessive fluff.

I bought this book at the Hong Kong airport last August and it has been my favorite flight companion since then. I was able to put the book down between flights, but the detail and depth of this long-winded memoir are so rich that the author has built a San Francisco high rise in my head.

The intimacy of Sean's tween/teenage confession brought me into the world of my new, wealthy, bad boy, wanna-be cool kid friend, suffering from his own entrapment in desire and frustrat
Nathaniel Eaton
I read a lot of memoirs and this is by far my very favorite. When I was younger I was a big fan of Dave Eggers' A Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius, feeling finally there was a memoir written from my generation that broke the rules of a lot of its predecessors and was enthralling. in my late 20’s I came out to San Francisco and actually got to work with Dave Eggers at 826 Valencia. He knew what kind of books I liked and he handed me a early proof copy of Oh The Glory of It All. Dave Egger ...more
The first third of this looong memoir follows the poor-little-rich boy story of Sean following the divorce of his father, the slightly bizarre and distant Al Wilsey and his mother, the beautiful, peppy, and quixotic Pat Montadon. Al remarries the fiendish Dede Wilsey and Pat decides to save the world from war in a crusade she dubs, Children as Teachers of Peace (a thoroughly woo woo waste of good intentions). It's a well-written and utterly fascinating read. The second third follows Sean's trans ...more
Greg Zimmerman
Near the end of Sean Wilsey's hilarious, engrossing coming-of-age memoir, Oh The Glory Of It All, he explains that "A memoir, at its heart, is written in order to figure out who you are." But there are other reasons, too — like outing your evil stepmother as a gold-digging, morally barren ho-bag; like creating a tribute to your dead father, who wasn't always your biggest fan; and like illustrating how different rich people are than we normals.

Rich people are interesting. Crazy people are interes
Wilsey's memoir focuses mostly on his teen years, which included a bugfuck mother who took him to Soviet Russia to meet Gorbachev and to Vatican City to meet the Pope; a distant and selfish father (who was also fabulously wealthy -- huh, wonder whether one thing had anything to do with the other? naaaaaah); and a truly wicked stepmother (and not wicked in the sense of "wicked good," either).

Frankly, I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. Its effect on me can probably be conveyed best
After reading Sean Wilsey's memoir, I need to thank my dad for the gift of a relatively dull, middle class, suburban adolescence. But wow, what an engrossing story! Wilsey is exactly my age, and we have many of the same cultural touch points, minus the reform schools, the helicopters, the Danielle Steele encounters, and luckily, the evil stepmother. I'm relieved that Wilsey has at last found comfort with his journalist wife and his own children, and (as much as this can be said about a young man ...more
Minty McBunny
This is truly one of the weirdest memoirs I have ever read. I have no idea how it got published, but I don't care. It's mind-bogglingly awesome. It definitely could have used a harsher editor and Wilsey seems to lose his way at the end, but this is a fascinating glimpse into a truly bizarre upbringing.

I should add that my clock radio went off to a NPR story about San Francisco that used some sound bites of Dee Young while I was in the midst of reading this, and it was kind of a terrifying way to
This guy's story is a pretty perfect example of why the rich aren't necessarily to be envied. Not that some of us regular folks don't experience some of the problems that he confronted in his formative years, but, man, if detached rich people don't come up with some new and interesting crap to throw at their kids. This is a good story, and though primarily a memoir, secondarily it acts as a descriptive tour of the San Francisco and Marin areas in which he grew up.
Suzanne Gillis
I couldn't put this book down. I read it for hours at a stretch. I am exactly the same age as Sean Wilsey and had such an immensely different life from him--with just enough overlap to help me relate to him in more ways than I expected. He tells his story with raw, insightful, honest painful detail. And isn't that what a memoir should do? If I felt awkward and awful about my teenage fuck ups, his were worse. And so I get to take some shelter in reading his vulnerable self portrait.

There are mom
Linda Nichols
This book was a very long tirade by a grown man against his parents, stepmother, and stepbrothers. I like memoirs, generally speaking, but this one was mostly tedious. I kept waiting for the day when Sean would wake up and see that he was self-destructing in a years-long temper tantrum of selfishness.

I listen to my son telling stories to his wife and friends, and I wonder what universe he was inhabiting. His memories and mine are miles apart on so many things. Listening to Sean's endless list of
Got this book with a stack of others for free at a friends moving sale. It sat on my shelf for 3 years unread because every time I read the back jacket cover I thought... Meh. Finally I had no other books left to read on a night when I really felt like reading and I picked up this charming, funny, quirky, at times bizarre and overall fascinating memoir.

I'm definitely a memoir fan, and more than famous people, I really enjoy reading about people with lives vastly different than my own. It's safe
Rob Schorr
Interesting memoir of the authors various experiences growing up. From brushes with celebrities, to traveling the world, skateboarding in SF, to being sent to experimental boarding schools. If you grew up in the 80's this will definitely resonate with you.
I agree with those who have said this book could have used a lot more editing. Too long with too much unnecessary detail. Above all I had a difficult time relating to the author--I didnt feel any rapport with him and that lessened the book's overall impact on me.
I am almost ready to give this book 5 stars actually. It is just so sad and so evocative. Normally, I am against tell-all, self-indulgent memoirs (and I say this as a memoirist myself), but I actually think it's far better to write the story as a memoir than a bad, fake novel. And some things are so tough and hurtful, that there is no other way to tell the story. That is definitely the case here, where, and just to summarize the highlights, Sean's mega-rich father, on his third wife (Sean's beau ...more
Jay Klyman
I was so excited for this book because of the author appearing on the Dear Sugar podcast with author: Steve Almond and author: Cheryl Strayed. I am also desperate for a book dealing with class/wealth privilege.

This book is kind of like a love story to San Fransisco. I have only been there once, so I think some of the magic was lost on me. But I know, having Chicago The book also dragged on and was about a 100 pages too long. But at some points it was laugh out loud funny. 2.5 stars from me. 3.5
SF society : the good, bad and scathingly funny.
I'm going to start off by saying I don't usually like memoirs. They're too self-indulgent for me. Wilsey's Oh the Glory of it All passed the test. His narrative voice is self-effacing without being whiny and honest without being braggy. He is first to point out his own weaknesses, owning up to his downfalls and crafting the story around them.

I didn't mind the length of the book because I liked "hearing" Wilsey tell his story--the parts where I feel the story dragged on were excerpts from journal
Mandi Matlock
It's so hard to give this one a star rating b/c I LOVED it sometimes and was mightily annoyed by it at others. The first 1/3 of the book held me spellbound. It was moving and captivating. His descriptions of everything - San Francisco, his mother, his feelings of isolation and longing - were absolutely riveting and evocative.

But his overindulgence in this skill wore me out at times. Especially in the second third of the book, when he went away to school after school. I admit my repulsion has mu
The first section is difficult to put down. Clever, witty, heartbreaking, hilarious, honest and engaging. A refreshing and provoking style, somewhere between Eggers and Augusten Burroughs, Wilsey takes me from a fantastical childhood straight down my own memory lane with the "evil stepmother", favoritism and the ultimate need to be loved.

The middle sections, focused on the schools is ironically my least favorite and I set the book down for a week. (Wilsey mentions at the end, his original inten
Nov 17, 2011 L rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: overrated
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Sean Wilsey (born 1970) is the author of the memoir Oh the Glory of It All,[1] which was published by Penguin in 2005. He is the son of Al Wilsey, a San Francisco businessman, and Pat Montandon, a socialite and peace activist, and the stepson of socialite and philanthropist Dede Wilsey (Diane Dow Buchanan Traina Wilsey). He is married to writer Daphne Beal, a former editor at The New Yorker, and t ...more
More about Sean Wilsey...

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“We are the bright new stars born of a screaming black hole, the nascent suns burst from the darkness, from the grasping void of space that folds and swallows -- a darkness that would devour anyone not as strong as we.” 6 likes
“A memoir, at its heart, is written in order to figure out who you are.” 5 likes
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