Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Society Scandal

Sean Wilsey got the star treatment in the San Francisco Chronicle today, a 3-page spread on his book, Oh The Glory of It All, his father Al Wilsey, his mother, Pat Montandon, and his stepmother, Dede Wilsey.

The Chronicle rolled out the article to coincide with the New Yorker’s excerpt of Wilsey’s book, set to hit newsstands this week. Wilsey and his publisher, Penguin Press, were looking for articles to coincide with the book’s May release, not to come out now, and declined to cooperate with the reporter, Carolyne Zinko.

The Chronicle normally doesn’t give 3-page spreads to first time authors. (In fact, a big weather map now occupies most of the back page of Sunday’s book review section). But Wilsey comes from what counts as San Francisco society, and his book scathingly portrays Dede Wilsey, his stepmother. That’s the same Dede who raised more than $150 million to build the new De Young museum in Golden Gate Park.

“I don’t think you can overemphasize the size of the mushroom cloud that will appear over Pacific Heights,” author Armistead Maupin told the Chronicle. He based one of the characters in his Tales of the City on Pat Montandon. “There hasn’t been a wicked stepmother like that since Cinderella.”

Will this book divide San Francisco society? Zinko asks. I don’t think so. Wilsey may excoriate his stepmother, and her detractors will delight in her comeuppance. Her friends will glance through the book, decide it’s all made-up, and never bring it up in her presence.

The funny thing is, in person, Wilsey doesn’t seem like a bitter or angry guy. He had a tough childhood, had to fight for attention from all his parents, but he’s grown up into the type of person who laughs and smiles a lot. It took him five years to write this memoir. Maybe the slug of researching and writing all those personal details got the vile out of his system. He acknowledges this in an interview in the New Yorker:

".. I wrote this because I had to write it, and there was no getting around it. It was the story that I just needed to get out of my way. I’m definitely going to write other things. I want to write about something that has nothing to do with my past. But, who knows? Maybe I’ll just be dogged by some kind of memoir curse."

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