Spoiled Children of Divorce


Exemplary Children of Divorce – Oliver Stone

It’s amazing how many Children of Divorce, the guys at any rate, grew up to become famous movie Directors.

This morning I was listening to the NPR radio station in my area and heard a very interesting interview with Oliver Stone.  He was talking about his life as well as his movies.  And Michael Krasney, the interviewer actually asked him to speak about his parents’ divorce. (awesome!, and of course Stone couldn’t really find the words to discuss it.)

Stone was born into comfort in New York and Connecticut. His Father was a stockbroker.  Wikipedia says that his parents divorced when Stone was 15 because his Father tended to end up having affairs with family friends.  Stone had a strong relationship with his  father, but his Mother was absent much of the time.  In the interview Stone says that he was sent to boarding school when he was 14 and this in connection with the divorce was a time of great loss.  Can’t remember his exact words because I was driving while listening to the interview.

I suppose that growing up in divorce trauma not only gives one a heightened of how to tell a story emotionally but to have an extra layer of understanding about human motivations.  One also has the freedom, in a sense, to devote one’s time to something outside of family and relationships.  Movie sets probably become like little families that disperse quickly.

Stone graduated from the boarding school and was accepted at Yale but dropped out after a year.  According to one article he decided to reinvent himself and went to Asia.  Religion appears to have played a big part in Stone’s life.  His Father was Jewish, his Mother was Catholic and they decided to raise him Episcopalian.  That’s nuts of course.  Stone has studied Buddhism for most of his adult life.

Stone fought in the Vietnam War and has made 3 movies about this experience.  The most famous is Platoon.

It seems to be a very positive survival step when Children of Divorce decide to completely reinvent themselves soon after leaving home around Age 18 or 19.  Changing one’s name, throwing one’s self into a career (one that doesn’t require College), seeking out a new religion and a better way of life than one has been brought up in is a big potential gift that one can take from this upbringing. Uranus rules Divorce so those who can enjoy Uranian lifestyles perhaps do better than those who don’t.

In the interview, Stone talks about his problems with addiction and his mental health issues as an adult.

He discusses the motives behind choosing many of the themes for his movies.  One can sense that being a witness to the reality behind one’s parents’ wedded bliss can really trigger the seeker in all of us.   Stone  seeks to find the real truth.  Political fraud.  Violence.  What really happens in history outside what one reads from textbooks and news reports.  Okay, okay, and there’s a lot of dramatization, exaggeration, and conspiracy theory there.  And those last reasons are what sell his movies.

Stone is on his third marriage.  He has two sons from his second marriage and has a daughter with his third and current wife.  Stone himself was an only child.



Exemplary Children of Divorce – Rick Moody

Interesting NPR radio show (http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201009021000)  that I again heard only a portion of while driving in the car.  Writer Rick Moody is promoting his new book and discusses his other books.  The Ice Storm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ice_Storm_%28film%29) was made into a movie so there was a humorous chat about that.  He says that he wrote the book in response to the “Rabbit” series of books written by John Cheever.  I haven’t read the books myself because I read a couple of short stories by Cheever and I didn’t like his tone.  He comes across as the over-privileged, superiority-complex-ed White Guy standing in the room at parties very smug in his attitudes about everyone else, and especially the daughters.

And it’s interesting that Moody says that The Ice Storm is written as a sort of kids’ revenge story on the parents because they reflect that awful 1960s and 70s disregard that parents had for their children.  That’s exactly what I remembered from the stories.  Growing up,  I know that most kids were afraid of their parents.  Certainly these are the parents who created the Divorce Boom.  This was the beginning of the great experiments in relationships.  Families got thrown in as an afterthought and I think that new families moving into the divorce and step-family thing sort of think these were happy times.

So, I had to look up The Ice Storm.  As usual, haven’t read it.  I saw the movie and I do remember being stressed out by it, but all I can really remember is the theater I saw it in.  No offense to Rick Moody.  I sort of stop reading novels after my Father died for some reason.  I really enjoyed listening to the NPR show today and highly recommend it.

So, of course, I was curious to see if Rick Moody is a Child of Divorce.  Found this in an interview on a blog about him (The Black Veil which is referred to is a memoir that Moody wrote – a reviewer called him something like the worst writer alive, probably just got offended because he said that the divorce hurt him):

Moody’s biography can seem a little conventional. Born in 1961, he lived in a scatter plot of Connecticut towns until, at 15, he headed off to boarding school. Amid this, Moody’s parents divorced — ”We were the first in the neighborhood to achieve that milestone,” he would write in The Black Veil — and his problems began in earnest.

Those problems included marijuana, hash, quaaludes, PCP, LSD, cocaine, speed and heroin, in addition to copious amounts of alcohol and “bad jags of promiscuity” (The Black Veil, again). Moody still managed to get into Brown University (he studied with John Hawkes and Angela Carter) and to get closer to his dream of becoming a writer (he attempted his first novel at 11). He earned an M.F.A. from Columbia University and got a job at a prestigious New York publisher, but his life, physically and emotionally, was no longer on a sustainable track.



Exemplary Children of Divorce – Sinead O’Connor

As the Catholic Church reels from yet more disclosures about mass pedophilia, Irish singer Sinead O’Connor has come forward to speak out about abuse she suffered by the Church as well in her childhood.

I saw O’Connor tonight on Larry King Live, and just had to check…

Yes, Sinead O’Connor is a Child of Divorce.  Already very popular in the U.S. in the 1980s, Sinead achieved icon status when she ripped apart a photo of the Pope on Saturday Night Live.  She says that she wants to rescue God from Religion.  That is one great line.

Sinead’s parents divorced when she was 8 years old.  After the split, she and her siblings (maybe only the oldest ones, am not sure about that) lived at first with her Mother who was abusive.   Sinead has written a song about the abuse she suffered from her Mother called “Fire on Babylon.”

Her Father had so much trouble fighting for custody rights for his children that he became chairman of “The Divorce Action Group” in Ireland.  In 1979 Sinead moved in with her Father and Step-Mother but was eventually sent to a Catholic school because her behavior was out of control.  In Catholic school she began to sing.

According to Wikipedia, Sinead has been married twice, claims to be bisexual, and has 4 children.  She tried to commit suicide on her 33d Birthday and was subsequently diagnosed as Bipolar.   That’s the short version of the story, of course.   This is a very complex woman.



Exemplary Children of Divorce – Rainer Maria Rilke
March 10, 2010, 1:55 am
Filed under: Boarding school, creativity, Exemplary Children of Divorce

The great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke was a Child of Divorce.

Rilke’s parents split when he was 9 years old and he was sent to live out the rest of his childhood in a Military Academy.  Previous to that his childhood seems to have been overshadowed by his Mother who was grief stricken over the death of a baby sister.  She dressed her son in girl’s clothes until he was 5 years old.  (Kind of strange to say, but my Father went through the exact same thing — and he was sort of a creative genius in his own right).

Rilke’s biography and a good summary of what his poetry is about is here.

Rilke wandered around Europe his whole life.  He published his first poems at Age 19.  He had a long affair with a married woman and then was married for one year in 1899 and had one daughter.  It seems that he spent a lot of time in castles and chateaus writing some of the most incredible poetry of all time.  It seems that his relationships suffered due to his need for solitude.

One can sense the trauma of the child of divorce all over the first lines of his Duino Elegies. I never liked poetry until I found these when I was in my early twenties.

Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1992
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

The First Elegy
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels’ hierarchies?

and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart:
I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.
And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note of my dark sobbing.
Ah, whom can we ever turn to in our need?
Not angels, not humans, and already the knowing animals are aware
that we are not really at home in our interpreted world.


E.O. Wilson Talks About His Life During Parents’ Divorce

Sociobiologist, E.O. Wilson, on events surrounding his Parents’ divorce when he was seven:

“Who can say what events formed his own character?  Too many occur in the twilight of early childhood.  The mind lives in half-remembered experiences of uncertain valence, where self-deception twists memory further from truth with every passing year.  But of one event I can be completely sure.  It beggan in the winter of 1937, when my parents, Edward and Inez Freeman Wilson, separated and began divorce proceedings.  Divorce was still unusual at that time and in that part of the country, and there must have been a great deal of gossiping and head-shaking among other family members.  While my parents untangled their lives, they looked for a place that could offer a guarantee of security to a seven-year-old.  They chose the Gulf Coast Military Academy, a private school located on the shore road four miles east of Gulfport, Mississippi.”

Wilson’s Mother takes him to the Military Academy:

“I looked at my military-style cot, the kind you can bounce a coin on when properly made.  I listened to an outline of the daily regimen.  I examined my uniform, patterned after that at West Point.  I shook hands with my roommate, who was inordinately stiff and polite for a seven-year-old.  All dream of languor and boyhood adventure vanished.”

p. 16-17, Chapter 2:  Send Us the Boy, Naturalist by E.O. Wilson.

In the first Chapter there is also discussion but it is seens as an event that is interspersed with Wilson’s beginning interests in the Natural world.  In particular his interest seems to have been triggered by memoy of a jellyfish he sees at an aquarium.  You can sort of see how part of him froze at this age on wonder and how he turned this wonder into his life’s work.

From Page 6:

“There was trouble at home in this season of fantasy.  My parents were ending their marriage that year.  Existence was difficult for them, but not for me, their only child, at least not yet.  I had been placed in the care of a family that boarded one or two boys during months of the summer vacation.  Paradise Beach was paradise truly named for a little boy.  Each morning after breakfast I left the small shorefront house to wander alone in seach of treasures along the strand.  I waded in and out of the dependable warm surf and scrounged for anything I could find in the drift…

“I have no remembrance of the names of the family I stayed with, what they looked like, their ages, or even how may there were.  Most likely they were a married couple and, I am willing to suppose, caring and warmhearted people. They have passed out of my memory, and I have no need to learn their identity.  It was the animals of that place that cast a lasting spell.”

Sounds pretty nice.  But, Wilson goes on to explain later in the chapter how he lost his vision because of lack of parenting.  While out fishing he caught a fish that had a spiny back fin.  One of the spines poked him in the eye. Wilson ignored the pain, the family who was caring for him did nothing about it.

Months later when Wilson was back with his family his eye clouded over. His parents took him to the Doctor who performed what is described as a very traumatic surgery and as a result most of the vision in that eye was lost.  That experience also is described as a key “seed” point in Wilson’s future work.

“I would thereafter celebrate the little things of the world, the animals that can be picked up between thumb and forefinger and brought close for inspection.”

– p. 15

from Chapter 1, “Paradise Beach”

I’ve discussed very briefly Wilson’s life after this.  He spent much of it wondering from caretaker to caretaker, sometimes living with his Mother whose finances were difficult and then living with his Father and Step-Mother.  He says he had a normal boyhood.  And he discusses how he doesn’t remember much of it.

Kind of interesting quote:  “always prone to closing and repeating circles in my life.”  p. 60