A flat, gossipy tape-recorder book about Edie Sedgwick--the well-born, unstable Party Girl who became Andy Warhol's first...


EDIE: An American Biography

A flat, gossipy tape-recorder book about Edie Sedgwick--the well-born, unstable Party Girl who became Andy Warhol's first pseudo-Superstar: despite the pretensions of the ""American Biography"" subtitle, Edie's sad life story remains shallow and clichÉd, while the Warhol scene comes across only in sleaze-glitter detail, without any convincing larger resonances. The approach here, appropriately (if self-defeatingly) Warhol-esque, is an interview mosaic, with chunk after chunk of testimony from lovers, friends, and relations (plus an occasional news-clipping or excerpts from Edie's banal on-camera confessions in Ciao! Manhattan). The first sections are dominated by Sedgwick siblings and other family, who chat about: the clan's old New England WASP traditions; Edie's strange, tradition-rejecting father (an exhibitionistic philanderer); family life on California ranches; the early deaths of two unstable brothers (suicide, accident); Edie's anorexia and teenage institutionalization. Then it's on to Cambridge, Mass., where art student Edie became the darling of the campy/artsy set. (""She wanted high, very sophisticated, brilliant faggot friends who posed no threat to her body,"" says one witness.) We hear many hackneyed descriptions of Edie in the laughing-on-the-outside/broken-butterfly-inside vein. And then: New York, where Edie became underground-famous for her dancing (""a sort of ballet-like rock-'n'-roll""), hooked up with the Factory and Warhol (seen here chiefly as an ""arriviste' exploiter), got locked up in speed and heroin, had a brief relationship with Bob Dylan, split with Andy, was traumatically burned in the Chelsea fire, drifted in and out of hospitals, dabbled with bikers, made Ciao! Manhattan (an excruciating experience for all), and died in bed (suffocation and/or drugs) soon after her 1971 marriage. ""She was the total essence of. . . the uncertainty, the madness that we all lived through in the Sixties,"" someone says. But that statement registers as close to laughable here: this Edie is only a pathetic case history--one that's not especially well presented. And even on its own, unwritten terms, the book is lacking: Warhol himself is quoted only in a handful of small fragments, Dylan not at all. So, while those still titillated by the Scene will want to browse through the 100+ photos and extensive dirt (Capote on Warhol, the drugs, the omni-sexuality), most readers will find this a tawdry, enervating assemblage.

Pub Date: June 28, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1982