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The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait Hardcover – March 3, 2014
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“[A] vivid, tender book [written with] humor and frankness…[and] a novelist's flair… A sleek, dramatic, authentically lurid story fueled by a candid fraternal rivalry.” (Janet Maslin - New York Times)
“Captivating… Bailey maintains a lacerating tone, and examines with the coolness of a detective the staggering things that we can do to the people we love.” (The New Yorker)
“Bailey maintains an almost impossible balance between stringent assessment…and a kind of unflappable empathy… The book is as clear-eyed and heartbreaking as any of his acclaimed biographies…yet every bit as compelling.” (Kate Tuttle - Boston Globe)
“Manages to do justice to the tedium of chronic dysfunction without becoming tedious itself…Compelling because of Bailey's emotional acuity as well as his wit, which emerges as an adaptive coping mechanism—a way to survive despair by streaking it with light.” (Leslie Jamison - San Francisco Chronicle)
“Vibrantly evocative and car-crash engrossing.” (Clark Collis - Entertainment Weekly)
“One of the most surprising and riveting memoirs of the season.” (Trisha Ping - BookPage)
“It seems fitting that biographer Bailey tells the story of his own life by chronicling his brother Scott’s alcoholism and drug addiction… [His] story captures the contradictions and tensions that simmer just below the surface of the family…and Bailey tells it wonderfully, in a tragicomic tone that slowly reveals the true depths to which his older brother has sunk.” (Publishers Weekly)
“A haunting portrait of more than one tortured soul and a heartfelt probing of the limits of brotherly love.” (Brendan Driscoll - Booklist (starred))
“Very entertaining [and] immensely enjoyable—but also profoundly, persuasively sad. Like Mary Karr or David Sedaris, Bailey doesn't try to manufacture an answer to the questions posed by his family's failings.” (Elyse Moody - Elle)
“This fine and haunting memoir touches the spot where family, responsibility, and helplessness converge. It’s not a pretty place, but boy has Blake Bailey made it memorable. The Splendid Things We Planned is as forceful and revealing as any of the author’s excellent biographies, and that’s really saying something.” (David Sedaris)
“A brother’s lament, a hard-won, clear-eyed view of one family’s tortured history, The Splendid Things We Planned is everything we hope for in a modern memoir. Blake Bailey's triumph here is both personal and literary: a beautiful book, rising out of the ruins.” (Dani Shapiro)
“An extraordinary memoir, written with the love and rage of a brother and son, and controlled with the skill of a master biographer.” (Geoff Dyer)
“One of the most sensitive, intelligent and affecting books I’ve read in a long time. The Splendid Things We Planned is the story of an American family, and of two sons whose lives went in very different directions. Though a memoir, it is, perhaps unsurprisingly, reminiscent of the fiction of Bailey’s former subjects Richard Yates and John Cheever in its compassion, its lack of sentimentality and the rich, detailed prose in which it is written.” (Adelle Waldman)
“Blake Bailey’s remarkable memoir…is a reminder that the best books (fiction or otherwise) impart a sense of shared experience, and to read them is to participate in humanity, not retreat from it. … He has also done for [his brother] what he did for John Cheever: He has written a person to life so that others might know him, too.” (Gregg LaGambina - The Onion A.V. Club)
“Splendid … often laugh-out-loud hilarious … [Bailey has] discovered an accessible and smart tragicomic tone for his family’s tale.” (Debra Gwartney - The Oregonian)
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Top Customer Reviews
It is not a happy family, and as Tolstoy noted famously in Anna Karenina, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own distinctive way. The principal tension in this story is generated by the evolving antipathy between the author and his increasingly deranged older brother Scott. While there are early signs that Scott is not quite anchored to practical, waking life, he is, at least to outward appearances, a lanky, attractive boy through the onset of adolescence. He progressively becomes a smoker, a pot smoker, an alcoholic and multiple drug addict, a serial car-wrecker, a delusional vagrant, and ultimately an impossible presence in everybody's life.
"Home," Robert Frost wrote, "is a place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." But Frost was thinking of a flinty old New England hired hand, not Scott Bailey. For the Bailey parents, divorced and relocated in early middle life, taking their elder son in was an invitation to a house fire or worse.Read more ›
Sadly all of us know (or have in our family) people that have a mental illness like the author's brother, Scott. Bailey's story vividly brings to life how destructive unfettered mental illness can be on a family. This book continues to stay with me and I highly recommend it.
In the beginning, he is so droll that I mistakenly dropped this story onto my "humor" shelf. It begins light, as childhood tends to be in spite of everything, and gradually, not unlike the "Clouds" he uses to end his story, it darkens, at first almost imperceptibly, then in a way that builds until the reader sits up, sits back (perhaps like me) to say, "Oh HELL no!" or, "Did that just happen?"
It did. And when you think about it, how could it be otherwise?
It is not just a good read, but also a damning indictment of the so-called justice system in the USA. How much human potential has been wasted in funding and resorting to incarceration when mental health care is so badly needed for so many?
The silence when he finishes is thunderous and deafening.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book! I checked it out after David Sedaris suggested it at one of his readings.Published 4 months ago by Justin J.
I read more nonfiction than I do fiction. Since I don't know the family, I can only surmise that the author has told the truth about his family. The story is tragic!Published 4 months ago by dixiepeach
In an interview about this autobiography, Bailey was confused by readers' questions about why the family didn't do more to help Scott, responding with "What more could we have... Read morePublished 5 months ago by tirzah783
I loved it but it's not an easy read. If you like dysfunctional family stories this is for you.Published 7 months ago by Ckromer