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Extended Audio Sample Dead End Gene Pool: A Memoir, by Wendy Burden Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,226 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Wendy Burden Narrator: Coleen Marlo Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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For generations, the Burdens were one of the wealthiest families in New York thanks to the inherited fortune of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt. By 1955, the year of Wendy’s birth, the Burden’s had become a clan of overfunded, quirky and brainy, steadfastly chauvinistic, and ultimately doomed bluebloods on the verge of financial and moral decline—and were rarely seen not holding a drink. In Dead End Gene Pool, Wendy invites readers to meet her tragically flawed family, including an uncle with a fondness for Hitler, a grandfather who believes you can never have enough household staff, and a remarkably flatulent grandmother.

At the heart of the story is Wendy’s glamorous and aloof mother who, after her husband’s suicide, travels the world in search of the perfect sea and ski tan, leaving her three children in the care of a chain-smoking Scottish nanny, Fifth Avenue grandparents, and an assorted cast of long-suffering household servants (who Wendy and her brothers love to terrorize). Rife with humor, heartbreak, family intrigue, and booze, Dead End Gene Pool offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of old money and gives truth to an old maxim: the rich are different.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “In this dark and humorous memoir Wendy Burden takes us inside the family circus that was her side of the Vanderbilt dynasty, bringing American class structure, sibling rivalry and the decline of the bluebloods vividly to life. It is a wonderful read.”

    Gus Van Sant, director and producer of Good Will Hunting 

  • “Charles Addams meets Carrie Bradshaw in this honest, sardonic, and touching memoir. Burden’s tale makes for riveting and often hilarious reading.”

    Jane Stanton Hitchcock 

  • “This blueblood tale is spun so deftly and so charmingly that it is easy to forget that this it is essentially a sad story of family neglect and degeneration. Burden joins the ranks of such memoirists as Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris, who have successfully mined their dysfunctional childhoods for comedic gold.”


Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Shannon | 2/6/2014

    " Ugh - finished this book and wish I had not bought it. Review to follow. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Jan | 1/13/2014

    " Started this on vacation instead of Paris Wife. Good writing and very funny-- will cause you to laugh out loud at times. Sad life in many ways but seems like she has made the best of it. I enjoyed reading it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Hannah Spector | 12/23/2013

    " Super rich people be super crazy. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Elle | 12/16/2013

    " Well this is a complicated book about a complicated family, the Vanderbuilts. The author portrays an eccentric and dysfunctional upbringing amidst great fortune. Yes, the rich are different. But it is the seething hatred of her family that most comes across in this book. Wendy spends her childhood racking up resentments against every single person she comes in contact with, from grandparents to mother to brothers to nurses and governesses and chauffeurs, chefs. Nobody is spared. Why is she so angry, one asks? Is it because she is given everything she needs? No, she wants a pony for Christmas and doesn't get one. Her brother does, so he is immediately on her hit list. I wish the author some peace, as she has suffered greatly, growing up in the lap of luxury. We should all be so cruelly treated. "

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About the Author
Author Wendy Burden

Wendy Burden is a confirmed New Yorker who, to her constant surprise, lives in Portland, Oregon. She is the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, which qualifies her to comment freely on the downward spiral of blue blood families. She has worked as an illustrator, a zookeeper, a taxidermist, and as an art director for a pornographic magazine, from which she was fired for being too tasteful. She was also the owner and chef of a small French restaurant, Chez Wendy. She has yet to attend mortuary school, but is planning on it.