2010: 88. Dead End Gene Pool


"It's a testament to his libido, if not his character, that Cornelius Vanderbilt died of syphilis instead of apoplexy."

Dead End Gene Pool, Wendy Burden

        I didn’t really like this book - though to be totally honest, I was expecting a different book than what I got.  Burden is a descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and comes from a family that is eccentric to say the least - her uncle is a Nazi, her grandparents prefer her brothers, merely because she’s a girl, her mother is a man-eater.  The cover of the book (and the inside flap) led me to believe it would be one of these “rich old crazy family” memoirs, and that’s why I picked it up.  Instead, its more of a “I personally had an effed up upbringing, despite (0r because of!) my money” stories, and it’s all told in a “isn’t this so funny” way - more Running With Scissors than The Architect of Desire*, and so it wasn’t really one of my favorites.  I find it interesting to read about crazy families from ago - the sheen of time makes it more compelling than tragic, but when it’s a contemporary story it’s pretty hard to see the humor - no matter how hard Burden tries.  And she had a terrible childhood - her father killed himself, her brothers grew up crazy, her mom was sad, her grandparents treated her like a second class citizen because she was a woman.  Seriously, the more I think about it, the more depressing the book was.  Burden isn’t a bad writer - she has a nice turn of phrase, and her tone is so mordantly jocular that you almost can be jollied along into thinking her story is funny.  But no dice - the details are too real (and maybe that’s because the author knows this stuff really isn’t funny - no matter how hard she tried?). I might even read another book that Burden writes, but I can’t see recommending this book to anyone.  

Categories: Non-Fiction, Library Book

* In fact, this falls exactly into the "tell my crazy stories in hopes of a book deal" genre that I was knocking in that blog post!

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017