Sunday, February 06, 2011

Book Review: "Dead End Gene Pool"

Wendy Burden's Dead End Gene Pool (Gotham, 2011) is a darkly comic look at the tragic dysfunctionality of the American super-rich. The great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Burden spent much of her childhood in what her semi-exiled mother called "Burdenland," a parallel universe inhabited by the very wealthy.

Shuttled from one house to another depending on the season, Burden and her brothers grew up in the lap of luxury, but luxury with a sharp undercurrent of alcoholism, drug abuse, mental instability, and not a whole lot of TLC. While they wanted for (almost) nothing material, to hear Burden tell it there certainly wasn't much love or human understanding to be experienced.

This might have been an extremely depressing book (and is, in parts), except for Burden's keen sense of the absurdities she witnessed and her ability to bring out the humor in situations that some of the rest of us might not have been able to laugh off. Sharp, poignant, and hilarious, this memoir makes for great reading.

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