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Dead End Gene Pool: A Memoir Paperback – Bargain Price, March 1, 2011
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-Gus Van Sant
"An extremely funny writer"
-The New York Times
"It provides 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."
"Charles Addams meets Carrie Bradshaw in this honest, sardonic, and touching memoir. Burden's tale makes for riveting and often hilarious reading."
-Jane Stanton Hitchcock, New York Times bestselling author of Social Crimes and Mortal Friends
"Burden's acknowledgment that she is focusing her memoir on her father's family (Vanderbilt heirs) because "rich people behaving badly are far more interesting than the not so rich behaving badly" reassures us at the outset that this will not be another standard-issue poor- little-rich-girl memoir. After her father's suicide when Burden was six, she spends her childhood largely ignored, shuttling between the home of her self-centered, globetrotting mother and her eccentric Park Avenue grandparents. Burden offers fascinating and voyeuristic insights into a little-known segment of society, the mega-rich American plutocracy in decline."
"This blueblood tale is spun so deftly and so charmingly that it is easy to forget that this it is essentially a sad story of family neglect and degeneration. Burden joins the ranks of such memoirists as Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris, who have successfully mined their dysfunctional childhoods for comedic gold."
"There's great tragedy and sadness that runs through the last three generations of the book's characters, and yet as I write this I find myself laughing at the memory of reading her descriptions and reactions to the world presented to her by fate (and genes). You will too."
-New York Social Diary
Top Customer Reviews
I fully agree with another reviewer who said she didn't find the book all that humorous; I really didn't, either. The interest for me was in the personal feelings of a girl who is growing up--the sibling rivalry, the Christmastime anticipation and the big reveal that Santa doesn't exist, the way her family interacted with one another. All of this really rang true to me, and if you take away the trappings a lot of Ms. Burden's experiences are universal. That, to me, was the appeal of the book, along with a few delicious bon mots about the Vanderbilts and a description of some of the family houses, which sent me off on a Googling frenzy to see what they looked like.
The shortcomings of the book were that in some places, the pacing did fall off quite a bit. Some of the stories just weren't that interesting, and the way they were put together was choppy at times. In addition, the book could have used a better editor; a number of typos and grammatical errors made it through to the final version.
To me this book was very reminiscent of A Charmed Life: Growing Up in Macbeth's Castle by Liza Campbell. The two women shared a very similar upbringing and experiences; however, the book by Campbell was in my opinion the better read of the two. In summary, the book was entertaining but uneven. The way it was marketed (humor! scandal!) doesn't match up with what, to me, was appealing about the story, which was the universal experiences of growing up.
What's too much?
I could tell you --- I was once married to the daughter of the second or third richest woman in America --- but you probably wouldn't believe me. Better that you find out for yourself. Just start accumulating wealth. When you have enough, you'll feel great. When you have too much, some new friends --- gloom, anxiety and a nasty sense of meaninglessness --- will show up, and never leave. Guaranteed.
Speaking of misery, let's consider the heritage of Cornelius Vanderbilt, in his day the richest man in America. (Here's just one of his estates.) Wendy Burden is his great-great-great granddaughter. It is astonishing, given her bloodline, that she could pull herself together enough to write Dead End Gene Pool. It's even more astonishing that she's alive.
When Wendy was six, her father killed himself. After that, she writes, "I only spent time with my mother when she was getting ready to leave. My brother and I had recently come to view her as a glamorous lodger who rented the master bedroom suite."
It would be easy to write this memoir from the Valley of Bitterness --- but then you'd have to live there. Wendy Burden chooses to reside on the Mountain of Absurdity. Smart move. Why waste energy on hating your mother when you can rip off lines like this, about Leslie Lepington Hamilton Burden dropping her young daughter at the airport and fleeing the jurisdiction: "She could make it downtown to Trader Vic's in less time than it takes to put on a pair of sheer black stockings and get the seams straight."
So Wendy and her brothers fell, by default, into the care of their grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. William A.M. Burden II.Read more ›
Second, the level of money seems to be inversely proportional to any maternal or paternal feeling. It's rather as if the Burden children raised themselves, and not so successfully.
Third, the book suffers from a lack of organization and insight. Stories about the grandparents are scattered throughout the book, along with stories about Wendy's mother - with no coherent time line. Plus, the author is now an adult but seems to have absolutely no insight about what things from her past might really mean, using an adult understanding.
I didn't find this to be a great read but it was an interesting book to skim.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Hands down the funniest book I have read in ages! Wendy Burden has such a healthy naivete/Devil may care attitude as a child about her Aristocratic family that retelling her... Read morePublished 28 days ago by Kindle Customer
I'm a Vanderbilt "buff". I've visited all existing homes and one of the books I've purchased even shows the floor plans of the homes. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
The memoirs of this heartless, souless and spoiled brat were like an amusing farce at first but....I stopped reading at the 'boiling alive the turtles' incident. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Philoctetes
Quick and fun read! Ms. Burden writes with good humor to help balance out the ridiculous and the tragic. Laugh out loud funny!Published 8 months ago by jewels
Despite an underlying message about decadence and degeneracy, I laughed my way through every page. While alcoholism and suicide may be inherited genes in Wendy Burden's family,... Read morePublished 10 months ago by irene miano
A very funny, revealing memoir. Well written; thorough enjoyable.Published 10 months ago by B. Blair
I read this book when it first came out, and loved it so much I literally purchased 3 copies to give to other people I knew would love it just as much as me. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Publishing Professional