REVIEW | Edie: American Girl by Jean Stein

image via Strand Books

image via Strand Books

title: Edie: American Girl [support an independent bookseller and buy at Strand]
by: Jean Stein
edited by: George Plimpton
genre: biography
pages: 455
published: 1982
source: personal collection

After reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids, I was inspired to pick up Stein’s biography of Edie Sedgwick.  I tend to let one reading choice inspire another.  For example, once I read the biography of the Mitford sisters, I immediately picked up Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, whose relationship with the sisters had been discussed.  Smith, in her memoir, mentioned her teenage interest in Sedgwick, which prompted me to remember I had her biography sitting on the bookshelf unread.  (n.b. I also tend to buy books at a pace that exceeds my ability to read them, so quite a bit of my personal library remains unread…and I imagine, the way I buy books, this will continue to be the case).  


Edie Sedgwick’s story is, at the same time, glamorous and tragic.  Born into a family as eccentric as it is dysfunctional, Edie was sent to several psychiatric institutions throughout her teen years before defecting from college to New York, where she met Andy Warhol and was deemed a “super star.”


Stein’s decision for the biography to be composed of incredibly well-edited interviews was genius, in my opinion.  Edie herself was a bit of an enigma; even people who were the closest to her didn’t seem to ever know her completely, so to it seemed fitting to piece the story of her life together via the people who knew all the different parts of her.


Edie had an amazing sense of personal style.  She was absolutely a trendsetter and an individual, and who knows what sort of impact she could have had on the fashion and art worlds if drugs hadn’t been the issue that they were.  Through Stein’s interviews and Plimpton’s expert editing, Edie is a riveting read that is fascinating on multiple levels:  as the story of a family, as the story of a troubled girl, as a unique glimpse into the art world, and as the story of an era.

Rubric rating:  9.


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