Thursday, July 14, 2005

What does Sean Wilsey's mom REALLY think of that book?

I interviewed Sean Wilsey, author of Oh The Glory of It All, for the Westchester Journal News. The interview finally ran last week, although we actually spoke just after the whole "controversy" of the book exploded in newspapers around the world. The whole "Wilsey To-Do," as one SF columnist dubbed it, took Sean by surprise. I asked him about that, and then I asked...

What does your mother actually think of it?

"She is horrified and proud at the same time. Mom was really helpful in writing the book. She provided me with a lot of source material. She was able to get in touch with people at the newspapers in San Francisco and help find things in archives there. She kept a lot of stuff that was really useful for me. She allowed me to interview her, quote her, talk to her at length. And yet, in a lot of ways, I betray her in this memoir, in that I’m not very charitable to her about some of the things that she’s done. That was really difficult for her.

"She’sbasically read it about nine times and she quotes it back at me now. She’ll say, 'Sean, my flabby arms are feeling a little tired today.' And I’ll say, 'I don’t think I described them as flabby. I think I said fleshy.' And we have a lot of fairly good-natured back-and-forth about that kind of stuff. But then the material that she finds really painful, like the scene where she talked to me about the two of us committing suicide, which she more or less admits is true, has been rough for her to read.

"Another scene—about her tantrum when she didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize—completely infuriates her, and she denies that it ever happened. But yet she’s also admitted that I’ve got the right to tell it as I see it. the coolest thing that she said to me has been—and this is in the context of a lot of other things—but she said, 'Sean, it’s such an accurate portrait of so many people that I know that I’ve had to conclude it must be an accurate portrait of me, too. And so I’m really going to have to take a look at the fact that I come across that way.' Then she paused and said, 'Or at least that I come across that way to you.'"

3 comments:

Betsy said...

I read the excerpt from that book when it was in the NYer with horror and total identification. My mom died before I wrote a bunch of stuff based on her, but even when she was alive she knew she was a pretty great character, and had a good sense of humor about it.

kfoz said...

I just noticed today that the second half of Sean's answer to this question is essentially word for word the answer he gave to Cressida Leyshon at the New Yorker for an interview on their website. Hmmmm.

Betsy said...

Hmmm indeed.