Ask an artist: the wide majority of them–writers, painters, filmmakers alike–will relish in their childhoods’ tortuously low moments. We never seem to run out of tales of awkward love, of parental misunderstanding. No one remembers being beautiful and leggy and thin. No. When we recount our teenage years, we tend to recall those heads full of bad acid, those feuds with vice principals, that deep loathing of the Career-and-Life-Management (the dubious CALM) a class that many of us had failed.
Sean Wilsey’s 2005 memoir “Oh the Glory of It All” takes a really long look at those teenage hurts. Born to self-obsessed super-wealthy society parents, Sean begins his memoir in the bosom of a family that prances around San Francisco in matching track-suits. But after his socialite mother Pat Mantadon is dumped by his bazillionaire dad Al Wilsey, ten-year-old Sean is crushed. The story doesn’t get crazy until Dad shacks up with his mom’s best friend, antagonist Dede Traina. She’s a dinosaur, an evil step-mother who pins $200 000 broaches to her bathrobe, then ships him off to a string of prison/boarding schools. His only redemption is the Skate-or-Die friends ripping around the hills of San Francisco in the late 1980s, the very first Thrasher kids in America.
For two weeks, you couldn’t pry this memoir from my hands. It is funny and horrible and shivering with truth. This is the kid who got rides to the arcade in Dad’s helicopter, who’s mom lives in a penthouse and goes to Russia to hang with Gorbachev. This is a kid who swears to be THE ENEMY OF EMOTIONS, and later is reduced to a puddle of snot and tears after a three-day Italian group therapy session. Insane family dynamics, gossip, and a list of REAL people who hurt him– this book lives strong, even a big five years since the hype has subsided.