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Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Oh The Glory Of It All

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Oh The Glory Of It All

by Sean Wilsey

Oh The Glory Of It All by Sean Wilsey X
Oh The Glory Of It All by Sean Wilsey
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  • First Published:
    May 2005, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2006, 496 pages

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In the wake of the James Frey debacle any memoir that is remotely controversial has to be treated as something of a hot potato, especially one as hot as Wilsey's. His step-mother, uber-socialite Dede Wilsey, threatened legal action against his publisher (after excerpts had run in the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle) in an attempt to stop publication of the book on the basis that there were more than 30 "actionably defamatory statements of fact ... which constitute libel per se" (and that was just in the excerpts!).  Penguin went ahead and published anyway, and I don't think there has been any more talk of legal action.

Sean's relationship with his step-mother is just one part of this memoir but it is a defining part and a continuous theme throughout.  She is portrayed in a less than flattering light - making the step-mothers of fairy tales look positively nurturing by comparison.  At the time it was published in hardcover last year, Dede was riding high, anticipating the imminent opening of the deYoung Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, for which she had raised substantial funds.  As one San Francisco based blogger puts it, "She was probably expecting to be the Queen of All She Surveys ....but this book is a great, classic act of revenge on her. It's reminiscent of the ending of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" when all of Paris Society have read the evil letters and shun the old heroine."

Sean Wilsey's writing has appeared in The London Review of Books, The Los Angeles Times, and McSweeney's Quarterly, where he is the editor at large. Before going to McSweeney's he worked as an editorial assistant at The New Yorker, a fact checker at Ladies' Home Journal, a letters correspondent at Newsweek, and an apprentice gondolier in Venice, Italy.  He lives in New York with his wife, Daphne Beal, and his son, Owen.

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This article relates to Oh The Glory Of It All. It first ran in the May 3, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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