Study Guide

Anything Your Little Heart Desires

by Patricia Bosworth

Anything Your Little Heart Desires Summary

Summary (Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

Anything Your Little Heart Desires is both memoir and social history, chronicling a family’s disintegration against the backdrop of one of the most politically volatile eras in American history. Bosworth’s memoir not only depicts the rise and fall of Bartley Crum as seen through the eyes of an adoring daughter but also offers a bird’s-eye view of several of the pivotal events of mid-twentieth century America. Although the author’s sometimes too-detailed accounts of Crum’s political activities often make this memoir read more like a dry history lesson than gripping personal drama, her depiction of the downward spiral of a brilliant career and the erosion of a family still engages the reader’s interest.

Bosworth’s father, Bartley Crum, was born in 1900 in Sacramento, California, to Mo Cavanaugh and James Henry Crum. James gambled away the family’s ranch when Bart was a child, forcing the Crums to move in with Mo’s parents, where Bart was raised. James Henry, a disgraced figure from that time on, had little influence on his son, while Mo, who doted on Bart, was determined to give him the best education and upbringing she could afford.

An accomplished and charismatic young man, Bart attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he became one of the most popular and well-known students on campus, even escorting silent film star Clara Bow to a prom. While at Berkeley, he met Anna Gertrude Bosworth, known as “Cutsie,” who had a reputation for being one of the “wildest” women on campus. Known to each other by reputation, the two felt an instant attraction when they finally met and were married in 1929.

After earning his law degree at Boalt Hall in Berkeley, Bart began working for the prestigious San Francisco law firm that handled William Randolph Hearst’s legal matters. While working on Hearst’s business affairs he also became heavily involved in pro bono work, representing needy clients from Chinese aliens to impoverished murderers. From the inception of his career these contradictory impulses to prove himself to the world by earning large sums of money in corporate law, while following the dictates of his heart to help the underrepresented and downtrodden, struggled to coexist. Bosworth explains this dichotomy in her father’s personality by his deep religious faith: “At the core of Daddy’s being was his Catholicism, his search for redemption as he struggled to find a deeper, more dedicated purpose to his life.”

Bart’s social activism led to a taste for politics, and in 1937 he joined the National Lawyers Guild, an association of progressive lawyers that included Abe Fortas and Thurgood Marshall. In this period he developed a friendship with the controversial leader of the San Francisco Longshoremen’s Union, Harry Bridges, and made anti-fascist speeches throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, joining such luminaries as John Dos Passos and Dorothy Parker of the American Committee to Save Refugees. He also helped John Steinbeck raise funds for migrant worker families. During these early years of his career Crum managed to successfully balance his business, political, and personal lives, and he and Cutsie threw many parties at which Communists, liberals, and anti- Communists mixed freely.

Politics began to take an even larger share of Crum’s time in 1940 when he became deeply involved in Wendell Willkie’s campaign for president as one of the candidate’s most trusted advisers. As Crum’s involvement in politics increased, the time he spent with his family (which now included daughter Patricia and son Bartley, Jr.) diminished considerably. He often left the family for long stretches while on the campaign trail. Cutsie, who had written one mildly successful novel in 1938, desperately attempted to get another novel published, and the children spent most of their time with nannies. Feeling lonely and neglected, Cutsie became an obsessive shopper; the bills mounted as she spent lavishly. Bart was a big spender as well, and between them they spent money faster than they earned it, never even taking the time to open a checking account.

Bart and Cutsie grew further apart as he threw himself into politics and work, and the two stopped sharing a bedroom after Bart, Jr.’s birth, supposedly because of Cutsie’s worsening...

(The entire section is 1760 words.)