Dumbfounded: Big Money. Big Hair. Big Problems. Or Why Having It All Isn't for Sissies. (Hardcover)

Big Money. Big Hair. Big Problems. Or Why Having It All Isn't for Sissies.

By Matt Rothschild

Crown, 9780307405425, 320pp.

Publication Date: August 12, 2008



What fresh hell is this?

I stopped, dumbfounded. My grandmother was at my bedroom door. “What the hell are you doing?” she asked, surprised but not angry. I looked down at my dress. “Playing school.” My grandmother began stroking her chin. Clearly, there were several ways she could take this conversation. “Matthew, what are you wearing?” I could see that she didn’t really want to ask this question but felt she had to. “A dress,” I said. . . . “And where did you get this dress?” she asked. . . . “I found it?” My grandmother sighed. “So you’ve been wandering around the women’s department at JC Penney? Do you expect me to believe you couldn’t find a better dress than that?”

The only Jewish family in a luxury Fifth Avenue building of WASPs, the senior Rothschilds took over the responsibility of raising their grandson, Matt, after his mother left him for Italy and a fourth husband. But rearing Matt was no small task—even for his sharp-tongued grandmother, a cross between Lauren Bacall and Bea Arthur, and a lady who Matt grew to love deeply.

Matt secretly wore his grandmother’s dresses, shoplifted Barbies from FAO Schwarz, invented an imaginary midget butler who he addressed at dinner parties, and got kicked out of nearly every elite school in Manhattan—once for his impersonation of Judy Garland at a recital. He was eventually sent to a boarding school (his grandmother had to ransom off a van Gogh to get him in). But as funny as his hijinks are now, at the time they masked a Jewfroed, chubby, lovable kid, sexually confused and abandoned by his mother, trying to fit in among the precious genteel world he was forced to live in.

Matt Rothschild—the man David Sedaris could have been if he’d grown up in an esteemed family on Manhattan’s Upper East Side—tells the story of his childhood with humor, honesty, and unlikely compassion for his eccentric relatives, including his mother, in this bitingly entertaining and unexpectedly tender memoir of family dysfunction.

Praise For Dumbfounded: Big Money. Big Hair. Big Problems. Or Why Having It All Isn't for Sissies.

“Funny and defiant”
The Los Angeles Times

“A family dysfunction story at its best…The former trustifarian’s portrayal of his bold and brash, potty-mouth grandma is a hoot...”
The Washington Post

“With genuine affection and brutal honesty, [Rothschild] paints vivid, delightful portraits of the colorful characters who crossed his path...”
USA Today

“Rothschild is a master storyteller of misadventures and emotional drama. He effortlessly allows readers to see events from his perspective, drawing them into his court and making them his advocates.”
Rocky Mountain News

“The book is delightful and funny—with smelly old people, embarrassing talent show routines and an imaginary midget butler—and reading it is the literary equivalent of spending a Saturday afternoon on the couch, watching an engrossing television program.”
The Nashville Scene

“Touching, biting, and honest, Rothschild recalls every child’s search for identity, rebellion against common sense, and the quest for love that has always been there. Humor, compassion, a man who refuses to ride a white Rolls-Royce after Labor Day, and a chubby Judy Garland impersonator with a Jewfro. What’s there not to love?”
—Annie Choi, author of Happy Birthday or Whatever

“Matt Rothschild’s hilarious, irreverent memoir of family dysfunction is so smart and true, with characters so wonderfully drawn, that, frankly, when it looked like things would turn out okay for the writer in the end, I was heartbroken.”
—Cynthia Kaplan, author of Why I’m Like This and Leave the Building Quickly

“How does the old joke go? ‘Some of my best friends are Rothschilds’? Well, after reading this playful, heartfelt charmer of a book, packed with Vanity Fair–worthy anecdotes of the wondrous ways the other half lives, you’ll wish Matt Rothschild really was your best friend! Call me, Matt! I miss you already!”
—Robert Leleux, author of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy