Edie: An American Biography


Sometime last year, Mucho Mucho Bueno Bueno shared their current read: a biography on Edie Sedgwick, socialite and model from the 1960s. Being a fan of Sedgwick, as well as a lover of all things '60s pop culture, I was intrigued. I ordered it and two days later, Edie: American Girl showed up. Like most of the books on my bookshelf, I didn't get to it for a while. This summer, I finally picked it up and it. was. awesome.

For starters, maybe the absolute best thing about this biography is that it isn't your typical biography. It's an oral biography, a style I had never read before and am now totally in love with.

Edie was whittled out of 15,000 pages of interview transcripts with all the people in Edie's life. Bouncing from interview to interview, with each interviewee fleshing out a bit more of the story, reading it is akin to sitting in a room with 200 people who are fighting to tell their piece of the tale, contradicting the person before them or proudly filling in the part of the story that no one else was privy to. The book doesn't slow down once; there's never a dull moment.

Which, if you know anything about Edie, is much like her life.

Edie was Andy Warhol's one-time muse and Bob Dylan's "Lady" in the big brass bed. She was one of Betsey Johnson's first models, a Chelsea Hotel resident and California girl by birth. Basically? The ultimate '60s It Girl, with more fame, friends, and fur than a normal person would know what to do with.

And that's where the story started to become more than just entertainment for me. Instead it showed me the less romantic side of a lifestyle I've often found myself jealous of.

There are some girls that just ooze charm and excitement. They're aloof, unattached, and seemingly untouchable. Boys want to be with them, girls want to be friends with them. These are those girls that have the most amazing adventures, the coolest clothes, and they're friends with literally everyone, from the nerds to the cool kids.

In my teens and early 20s, when I met girls like this, I wanted to be them so badly. I wanted to emulate their laidback, anything-can-happen attitude. Like them, I wanted to not care, to not feel so many feelings, to be more selfish, have less caution and more cajones. I wanted to transform into Penny Lane. I idolized Edie Sedgwick.

Now, after reading Edie, I just feel sorry for her.

Was she all of those things? Absolutely. She possessed all the traits I assumed one needs to possess to be the kind of girl people write songs about. And I'm sure that, to her, life was amazing and well-lived. But that came at a pretty hefty price.

Girls like Edie can never be alone - and not just alone, as in without a significant other. I mean it in the literal sense... they need to have someone giving them attention constantly. They can never be satisfied, content or happy. They usually are dealing with something traumatic that's happened in their past. Eventually, as they become adults, they don't have real friends anymore because they don't know how not to hurt the people who love them. And even if songs are written about them, these aren't the girls who will appreciate it.

Going behind the scenes into the relationships of one of my former idols exposed all the delusions that my naive teenage self had believed about what it was like to be that specific girl. In this case, that girl had histrionic personality disorder, an abusive childhood, addictions, abortions, grieved the loss of two brothers, had an eating disorder and was unbelievably codependent. In Almost Famous, that girl OD's in a hotel room when she finds out that her married boyfriend isn't leaving his wife for her.

When I wasn't enjoying the voyeuristic romp through the Factory, learning about speed doctors and seeing the dark side of Andy Warhol, Edie really helped me to see that I didn't miss much by not figuring out how to emulate those girls. More importantly, it exposes the lie that it's something that can even be emulated: to be that girl, one is probably dealing with some shit. Or more likely, not dealing with it.

At over 450 pages (depending on your edition), Edie is a commitment, but one that's well worth following through if you've ever felt sorry for yourself because you didn't have enough "glamour" in your life, or if you just want to indulge in it vicariously through one of the most iconic personalities of the Pop '60s.

2014 '50 Books' Progress: 7/50
(I think its pretty clear that this is an unattainable goal for 2014! But I'll at least try to break last year's attempt with 12!)