spechtfamily, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by spechtfamily)
The author has a wickedly droll sense of humor. Raised in one of the most aristocratic families of America by relatives who were barely able to function on a daily basis, the author chronicles her very dysfunctional childhood. I read "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" immediately after and was struck by how much the character Flavia and the author had in common. It is a wonder that Wendy Burden survived to tell her story, which is well-written with lots of black humor.
Quacko54, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Quacko54)
I enjoyed this book for a number of reasons. Wendy Bender is the same age as I am. I was also a very neglected child in a crazy household-It was fascinating to see what intergenerational abuse/disfunction keeps producing and diminishing quality of life.
Having the same time line and living in New York City was an amazing look into how we all live and what money can or will not do to its possessors...Fascinating family history. Especially if you have read about the Vanderbilt history.
TC, April 19, 2010 (view all comments by TC)
This is a funny, quirky memoir--I read it in one sitting and loved it. Many families are as dysfunctional as Burden's, just not on such a grand and interesting scale!
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Jean Frank , April 16, 2010 (view all comments by Jean Frank )
After all the publicity, I expected more. Full of catchy soundbites and brand names, this book has no human feelings. It's like looking at something instead of being moved by anything. It was hard to finish, kind of like sexless pornography about rich people. Glossy exterior, but boring and messed up interior. I wish I had not spent any money on this book. Plus I feel badly for the two doltish brothers that she rats on. She does not seem like a very nice person. What a waste of time!
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by Gus Van Sant,
"In this dark and humorous memoir Wendy Burden takes us inside the family circus that was her side of the Vanderbilt dynasty, bringing American class structure, sibling rivalry and the decline of the bluebloods vividly to life. It is a wonderful read."
by Jane Stanton Hitchcock, New York Times bestselling author of Social Crimes and Mortal Friends,
"Charles Addams meets Carrie Bradshaw in this honest, sardonic, and touching memoir. Burden's tale makes for riveting and often hilarious reading."
by Boston Globe,
"[A] compelling window into a life you're glad you didn't have to live, and the woman who survived it, sense of humor intact."
by Library Journal Annex,
"Burden offers fascinating and voyeuristic insights into a little-known segment of society, the mega-rich American plutocracy in decline."
The great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt gives readers a grand tour of the world of wealth and WASPish peculiarity, in her irreverent and darkly humorous memoir.
In the tradition of Sean Wilsey's Oh The Glory of It All and Augusten Burrough's Running With Scissors, the great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt gives readers a grand tour of the world of wealth and WASPish peculiarity, in her irreverent and darkly humorous memoir.
For generations the Burdens were one of the wealthiest families in New York, thanks to the inherited fortune of Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt. By 1955, the year of Wendy's birth, the Burden's had become a clan of overfunded, quirky and brainy, steadfastly chauvinistic, and ultimately doomed bluebloods on the verge of financial and moral decline-and were rarely seen not holding a drink. In Dead End Gene Pool, Wendy invites readers to meet her tragically flawed family, including an uncle with a fondness for Hitler, a grandfather who believes you can never have enough household staff, and a remarkably flatulent grandmother.
At the heart of the story is Wendy's glamorous and aloof mother who, after her husband's suicide, travels the world in search of the perfect sea and ski tan, leaving her three children in the care of a chain- smoking Scottish nanny, Fifth Avenue grandparents, and an assorted cast of long-suffering household servants (who Wendy and her brothers love to terrorize). Rife with humor, heartbreak, family intrigue, and booze, Dead End Gene Pool offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of old money and gives truth to an old maxim: The rich are different.
The great-great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt takes a look at the decline of her wealthy blue-blooded family in this irreverent and wickedly funny memoir
For generations the Burdens were one of the wealthiest families in New York, thanks to the inherited fortune of Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt. By 1955, the year of Wendy's birth, the Burdens had become a clan of overfunded, quirky and brainy, steadfastly chauvinistic, and ultimately doomed blue bloods on the verge of financial and moral decline-and were rarely seen not holding a drink.
When her father commits suicide when Wendy is six, she and her brother are told nothing about it and are shuffled off to school as if it were any other day. Subsequently, Wendy becomes obsessed with the macabre, modeling herself after Wednesday Addams of the Addams family, and decides she wants to be a mortician when she grows up. Just days after the funeral, her mother jets off to southern climes in search of the perfect tan, and for the next three years, Wendy and her two brothers are raised mostly by a chain- smoking Scottish nanny and the long suffering household staff at their grandparent's Fifth Avenue apartment. If you think Eloise wreaked havoc at The Plaza you should see what Wendy and her brothers do in "Burdenland"-a world where her grandfather is the president of the Museum of Modern Art; the walls are decorated with originals of Klee, Kline, Mondrian, and Miro; and Rockefellers are regular dinner guests.
The spoiled life of the uber-rich that they live with their grandparents is in dark contrast to the life they live with their mother, a brilliant Radcliffe grad and Daughter of the American Revolution, who deals with having two men's suicides on her conscience by becoming skinnier, tanner, blonder, and more steeped in bitter alcoholism with every passing year.
We watch Wendy's family unravel as she travels between Fifth Avenue, Virginia horse country, Mount Desert Island in Maine, the Jupiter Island Club, London, and boarding school, coming through all of it surprisingly intact. Rife with humor, heartbreak, family intrigue, and booze, Dead End Gene Pool offers a glimpse into the eccentric excess of old money and gives truth to the old maxim: The rich are different.
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