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Oh the Glory of It All

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  4,479 Ratings  ·  416 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 19
ebook, 496 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by Penguin Books (first published May 19th 2005)
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Ted Gideonse
Jul 05, 2008 Ted Gideonse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 22, 2009 Ginger rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2008 will rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Alec Scott
Feb 07, 2012 Alec Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 08, 2007 Sierra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 20, 2007 Kirstie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Amar Pai
Apr 02, 2016 Amar Pai rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up-on
F*ckin Dede Wilsey! Arch-villainness. Evil stepmother. Richer than god. I'm finding this book pretty riveting. Pacific Heights mansions, private helicopters, boarding schools, decadence, it's all in here. You know how I'm obsessed w/ the idle rich

It's also unbearably sad

Interesting, Sean Wilsey's mother wrote her own memoir after this, with basically the same name and cover:

I have them both checked out from the library. Thankfully, his mom's book has a picture section. I wanted to see Dede.

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 liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 16, 2013 Alvin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 12, 2011 Greg Zimmerman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 07, 2008 Chazzbot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a memoir of a privileged young man living among the glitterati of San Francisco in the mid-1970s. It's also a portrayal of an incredibly dysfunctional family, but this is not the usual Sturm und Drang one finds in the typical dsyfunctional family memoir. Rather, Wilsey bares his family's bones so devastatingly that hilarity ensues. Wilsey's mother, in particular, is nearly unbelievable. Wilsey's family--wealthy socialites--come from a different planet as far as I'm concerenced, so I was ...more
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
Jul 26, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
George Ilsley
This memoir starts off well but starts to drift when he goes off to school. I had trouble at that point keeping the thread -- what school? who are these people? It does not help that Wilsey seems more interested at this point in name-dropping than in narrative.

The book never really grabbed me again. Overall it felt too long, and muddled. The immature narrator grew too tiresome; the more mature narrator arrives late in the process. 2.5 stars.
Minty McBunny
Apr 15, 2014 Minty McBunny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Frances Coles
Sep 25, 2016 Frances Coles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seemed like the writer didn't quite know how to end this book, and it kind of dribbles off. He actually writes at one point that he "can't wait to finish this book so that I can write about something else." I think that maybe he is trying to get at something bigger than just writing his particular book, with this admission: something about how people who have survived (if we can use that word, it's a word that's been sort of devalued lately, it seems to me) very rarefied, very difficult child ...more
Aug 28, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2014 Suzanne Gillis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 23, 2016 Karen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
* 65 Books You Need To Read in Your 20s: #44
* Can't-Miss Memoirs For Every Personality

Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey is an exceptionally well-written memoir of the author's privileged, yet highly dysfunctional childhood. The son of former San Francisco society columnist Pat Montandon and real-estate mogul Alfred Wilsey, Sean takes the reader through a high-drama journey that includes the arrival of a "wicked stepmother" (socialite Dede Traina), flunking out of boarding school, and so much more.
Dec 02, 2014 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 04, 2014 Rob Schorr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 19, 2016 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good example of a book that gets better upon reflection. I read it 10 months ago, and parts of it still come back to me at random. It helps that I am currently reading 'Norwegian Wood' by Murakami, which is largely featured in the memoir. I changed my review from 3 stars to 4.
Dec 20, 2014 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 01, 2014 Ozma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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