A Box of Darkness

A Box of Darkness

Sally and Upton Brady led seemingly charmed lives. She was a debutante and writer; he was the celebrated editor in chief of the Atlantic Monthly Press. Together this dashing literary couple raised four children in the ’60s and ’70s, mingled with famous writers, and attended glamorous parties. But as Sally reveals in her compelling but uneven memoir, A Box of Darkness, the marriage was — well, a box of darkness.

While Upton was erudite and dapper — a former Navy man who could fix anything — he was also an emotionally abusive alcoholic who alternately charmed and terrorized his household. After his death in 2008, Sally was deeply shaken when she discovered his stash of homosexual pornography. (It’s not clear why she was so shocked, since Upton had once confessed to an affair with a man.) Sally’s struggle to understand who her husband really was, and what her life with him meant, makes this portrait of her marriage swing wildly. Is this a tale of regret over staying with a man who could be cruel and who wouldn’t allow her access to ”his” money? Or is this a testimony to the fortitude of love — of sticking together through good times and bad, in sickness and health, until death did them part?

Ultimately the author doesn’t know, and it doesn’t help that the book occasionally reads more like a tape transcription than polished prose. At its best, Darkness is a fascinating peek into a bygone era of three-martini lunches and receptions that saw John Wayne pass out on the dance floor. At its most frustrating, it’s just a dark box, begging for the author to shed some light. B?

A Box of Darkness
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