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Oh the Glory of it All

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  4,953 ratings  ·  422 reviews
"A memoir, at its heart, is written in order to figure out who you are," writes Sean Wilsey, and indeed, Oh the Glory of it All is compelling proof of his exhaustive personal quest. It's no surprise that as a kid in the '80s, Wilsey found similarities between his own life and his beloved Lord of the Rings and Star Wars--his journey was fraught with unnerving characters too ...more
Paperback, 482 pages
Published April 25th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published May 19th 2005)
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Ted Gideonse
Apr 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 rated it did not like it
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
Rebecca McNutt
This book was much stranger than I was expecting, but not in a bad way. It's a well-written story of the rich and odd, and a very entertaining one at that.
Sep 28, 2007 rated it liked it
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 23, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 25, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 08, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Amar Pai
Mar 22, 2016 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.

Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was ok
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 rated it liked it
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
Greg Zimmerman
Mar 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 13, 2007 rated it it was ok
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 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Julie McNelis
Apr 05, 2008 rated it liked it
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 rated it liked it
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
Larry H
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
Linda Nichols
Nov 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Minty McBunny
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
May 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Rob Schorr
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 13, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Feb 05, 2012 rated it liked it
SF society : the good, bad and scathingly funny.
Aug 01, 2013 rated it liked it
The first portion of this book: 5 stars. An essential skill in storytelling is knowing when to stop.
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oddly enough it is almost 3 years to the day that I finished the memoir "Oh the Hell of It All" by Pat Montandon, Sean's mother, which led me to this book. "Oh the Glory of it All" is Sean's memoir covering the same time period and was actually published first. And of course, it is Sean's story. I have stated that I only give 5 stars to books I would reread, and truthfully I probably won't reread this one. But Sean's ability to bare his soul and emotions relating his truly heartbreaking childhoo ...more
Jack Nickles
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book spanned the spectrum of my emotions. I enjoyed the memoir but it took my awhile to adjust to his writing style.

After finishing this book I feel sad. That a child would have to go through what he did. To feel so unloved for such a long time by his parents makes me feel overwhelming gratitude for my own parents who would do anything for me at any time of the day.

After finishing this book I realize that wealth and fortune have no value when it comes to love, friendship, parenting etc. M
Meg Reid
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wilsey doesn't hesitate to examine himself, either, and part of the great charm of this memoir is his climb from rebellious, irresponsible brat to, well, memoir writer. Wilsey is forced into several schools for troubled youth, and the curricula of these schools is as unbelievable as the personalities of Wilsey's family members. It's a wonder that Wilsey emerges from this background as likable as he does--other than his wealthy parents, he has nothing going for him.

I picked up this book based on
Sherri Mcinnis
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, memoir
During most of the book I felt both like crying and giving a standing ovation.

From this memoir, I came away with the renewed realization that growing up is difficult. Being in a family is tricky. And people don't consider how their actions will affect the children to whom they are connected. Kudos to Sean Wilsey for exploring his past. And for acting out of love in spite of the way he was treated. I have a feeling his son will grow up in a very different sort of family.

Here is one powerful quo
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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
“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.” 7 likes
“A memoir, at its heart, is written in order to figure out who you are.” 5 likes
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