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The Splendid Things We Planned: A Family Portrait (Hardcover)
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A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist 'Autobiography'
The renowned biographer’s unforgettable portrait of a family in ruins—his own.
Meet the Baileys: Burck, a prosperous lawyer once voted the American Legion’s “Citizen of the Year” in his tiny hometown of Vinita, Oklahoma; his wife Marlies, who longs to recapture her festive life in Greenwich Village as a pretty young German immigrant, fresh off the boat; their addled son Scott, who repeatedly crashes the family Porsche; and Blake, the younger son, trying to find a way through the storm. “You’re gonna be just like me,” a drunken Scott taunts him. “You’re gonna be worse.”
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Blake Bailey has been hailed as “addictively readable” (New York Times) and praised for his ability to capture lives “compellingly and in harrowing detail” (Time). The Splendid Things We Planned is his darkly funny account of growing up in the shadow of an erratic and increasingly dangerous brother, an exhilarating and sometimes harrowing story that culminates in one unforgettable Christmas.
About the Author
Blake Bailey is the author of biographies of John Cheever, Richard Yates, and Charles Jackson. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians, and a finalist for the Pulitzer and James Tait Black Prizes. His previous book, The Splendid Things We Planned, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography. He lives in Virginia with his wife and daughter.
Enthralling… Achingly honest… A fearless, deeply felt and often frightening book…[The Splendid Things We Planned] arrives at a certain undeniable truth about how we are capable of feeling love for people we would never choose to be around.
— Dave Itzkoff
[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
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
Vibrantly evocative and car-crash engrossing.
— Clark Collis
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
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.
A haunting portrait of more than one tortured soul and a heartfelt probing of the limits of brotherly love.
— Brendan Driscoll
One of the most surprising and riveting memoirs of the season.
— Trisha Ping
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
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.
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
Splendid … often laugh-out-loud hilarious … [Bailey has] discovered an accessible and smart tragicomic tone for his family’s tale.
— Debra Gwartney