Imagine: your father flies you and your friends, in his helicopter, forty miles over the mountain to a video arcade for the afternoon. Your mother writes a society column and holds roundtable luncheons in her apartment for famous people (Joan Baez, Dear Abby, Alex Haley, Gloria Steinem, Shirley Temple, and assorted Black Panthers). At movie premieres, crowds cheer from sidewalks and wave stake-and-posterboard signs for your mother: "Pat is our Gal," "Pat's Outta Site [sic]—says her Fans," and "We Like Pat Montandon." You enjoy a larger-than-life existence, with more money than you'll ever need (from your father's family's butter-and-egg business). So why are you so sad, so panicky for love?

Sean Wilsey, an editor at large for McSweeney's quarterly, was born in San Francisco in 1970. He writes, "In the beginning we were happy. And we were always excessive. So in the beginning we were happy to excess." All comes tumbling down after his parents' rancorous divorce (splashed out in papers, including the National Enquirer) and his father's immediate marriage to the Evil Stepmother, Wilsey's mother's best friend. Wilsey is shuttled to and from their houses—cavernous, lonely palaces with useless spaces—and becomes more and more resolute in his bids for their love and attention. Between his mother, who at one point begs him to commit suicide with her, and his father, who fawns over Wilsey's new stepbrothers, Todd and Trevor, Wilsey doesn't have a chance.

The title of Wilsey's memoir, Oh the Glory of It All, comes from a phrase the author used to repeat to himself when he was "alone and things were glorious." Part 1 is filled with stories that will make you cup your hand over your mouth—what damage parents can do ...

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