A fascinating, highly subjective insider's memoir of the dissolution of the Louisville communications empire. Sallie Bingham...



A fascinating, highly subjective insider's memoir of the dissolution of the Louisville communications empire. Sallie Bingham was born into the smothering arms of the southern aristocracy: she ate calf's brains for breakfast, pretended to understand conversations that consisted of shrugs and pauses, and bought into the idea of the Family as Shining Example. Her father, Barry, owned the Courier-Journal; her mother, Mary, was gracious and educated, anchored by her role as perfect wife. The oldest son, Worth, was groomed to run the family business; the younger kids--Barry, Jr., Sallie, Jonathon, and Eleanor--were pampered, but also indoctrinated: certain questions couldn't be asked; certain topics (including money) were taboo; showing too much need was bad form entirely. When the oldest and youngest sons died in freak accidents, passive Barry, Jr., was drafted to run the paper. In 1977, after two failed marriages, minor success as a writer, and regular checks from the family trust, Sallie moved back to Louisville, and, at the suggestion of her father, took a place on the boards of the family companies. The trouble started when Sallie began to ask questions at the board meetings. Underlying these queries were deeper concerns--about her avowedly liberal family's subtle racism, about entrenched notions of the woman's (non) place in the work world. Eventually, when Barry demanded that all the women resign from the boards, Sallie decided to sell her stock. Shortly thereafter, Barry, Sr. (who held the real power all along) decided to sell--and the Bingham empire became history. Bingham does not pretend to be objective: the book is fueled by her pain and anger at her family that valued tradition and appearance more than communication (and which allegedly tried to halt publication of David Leon and Mary Voelz Chandler's family exposÉ, The Binghams of Louisville, 1987). But this is more than just a questionably reliable retelling of the family business story: it's thick with resonant detail, illuminating the almost invisible conduits through which emotional control is conveyed. A revealing portrait of family unhappiness.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988