September 28, 2022
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Considering About Edie and Andy
Via Alice Sedgwick Wohl
Illustrated. 259 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $28.

Rising up within the first part of the closing century, Alice Sedgwick Wohl used to be taught, amongst many different draconian regulations of WASP etiquette, that “it used to be fallacious to start out a letter and even a paragraph with the pronoun ‘I.’” Although letters and even paragraphs would possibly now be as threatened because the Arctic ice caps, Wohl has defiantly written a complete ebook within the first individual singular. Her late-life memoir, “As It Turns Out” — printed simply sooner than its writer’s 91st birthday — is gorgeous, if now not precisely completely satisfied.

Wohl used to be the primary kid of 8 in a circle of relatives of genteel start and asymmetric psychological well being, the Sedgwicks, who moved from Chilly Spring Harbor, N.Y., to a succession of ranches in California. On one of the ones homes they struck oil, fortifying their attenuated fortune. Their wealthy ancestry incorporated Theodore Sedgwick, a speaker of the Space underneath Thomas Jefferson; Ellery Sedgwick, the longtime editor of The Atlantic Per thirty days; and Ellery’s brother Henry Dwight Sedgwick, a prolific standard historian who “knew and didn’t in particular like” Henry James. Introduced up “now not to speak about anything else non-public,” Wohl writes, “I’m uncomfortably mindful that the mere recitation of information like those can quantity to bragging.”

The 7th kid, Edie, would turn out to be the famed — and doomed — muse to Andy Warhol proper because the ’60s had been turning bitter (she died of a barbiturate overdose in 1971, at 28). Wohl’s ebook is lassoed across the pair’s double celebrity, however loops again touchingly to the second one kid, Bobby, to whom Alice used to be shut and who in 1965, at 31, fatally collided with a town bus whilst using his bike. Any other more youthful brother, referred to as Minty after his heart identify, Minturn, had dedicated suicide the former yr.

Foolish nicknames had been every other WASP customized (Henry Dwight used to be referred to as Babbo), and ceaselessly they stung. Minty hated his sobriquet, in line with “Edie: An American Biography” (1982), the oral historical past edited through the Sedgwick intimates Jean Stein and George Plimpton, to which “As It Turns Out” serves as a sort of sidecar quantity. (There were a number of different books, documentaries and a function movie focused on Edie, however none have the Stein-Plimpton collaboration’s heft.) Alice herself used to be known as Saucie as a result of her father, Francis Sedgwick, concept she resembled a sausage at start; Francis, a sculptor with a in moderation maintained Charles Atlas body, fretted frequently about Alice’s weight. To his pals, he used to be referred to as Duke, which supplies some concept of his preening self-regard, a facade after apprehensive breakdowns torched banking and army careers. Prior to his marriage to the long-suffering Alice Delano de Wooded area, he were suggested through a psychiatrist to not procreate.

To the Von Trapp-like brood he obstinately sired anyway, christened “in a batch at the terrace,” Francis used to be now not Daddy however Fuzzy, a nickname borrowed from his wellborn sweetheart’s father’s nickname. He “wasn’t fuzzy, used to be he” because the previous nursery rhyme is going, however merciless and abusive, administering spanks with a hairbrush, calling Minty “an previous girl and a sissy” and writing a hurtful roman à clef, “The Rim,” about his personal philandering. Edie mentioned she’d now not simplest walked in on Fuzzy in flagrante delicto, leading to him slapping her and taking pictures her complete of tranquilizers, however used to be herself subjected to his sexual advances when she used to be as younger as 7. “The truth that I to find it exhausting to consider doesn’t imply some of it couldn’t had been true,” writes Wohl, who herself witnessed Fuzzy’s jealous, seductive conduct and his stunning racism.

A translator of artwork books, an comprehensible selection of occupation bearing in mind the unusual codes she used to be pressured to interpret rising up, Wohl provides delicate shading and texture to the gang portrait of the Sedgwicks that emerged in “Edie” — and a spray of gentle. She describes mendacity on haystacks staring at at meteors within the night time sky, wearing a trout that she and Bobby stuck again to the home in her moccasin for her father’s delectation, and using a liked grey gelding referred to as Grenadier. “Simplest tune, simplest a Brahms symphony, comes shut” to the feeling of the ones prelapsarian gallops, she writes.

Alice Sedgwick Wohl, whose new ebook is “As It Turns Out: Considering About Edie and Andy.”Credit score…Ralph Lieberman

With its primitive and once in a while barbaric rituals (farm animals branding, and so forth.), the remoted ranch used to be Duke’s elaborately built duchy — reverse and but parallel in many ways to the hypermodern tinfoil kingdom of Warhol’s Manufacturing unit: “Every of the 2 worlds used to be ruled through a tough male determine, one gregarious and priapic, the opposite shy and intentionally ‘graceful,’” Wohl issues out. Every used to be fixated on appearances; each and every used to be fogged through narcotics. Warhol, the Byzantine Catholic from working-class Pittsburgh, passed out humorous nicknames as neatly.

“As It Turns Out” provides alternative for Wohl, with the point of view of a long time, to stroll again some of the feedback she made to Stein concerning the artist, to recognize his ingenious and emotional breadth and his prescience. “I’m ashamed to peer the shallow issues I mentioned,” she writes. “I simply didn’t get it.” She reveals his trick of brushing aside non-public issues of a easy “so what” in particular at hand.

Wohl could also be decided to refine the preferred influence that her little sister used to be an blameless finished in through Warhol’s Svengali. “She used to be now not Miranda in ‘The Tempest,’” Wohl writes, “she used to be extra like a feral creature springing out of captivity,” who would raise round a replica of“A Story of Two Towns” for display and to start with mistook her silver-haired doppelgänger’s mission as “Pop Tart.” On this telling, Edie, blessed or cursed through outstanding good looks, is spoiled through her oldsters and develops a domineering persona, turns into a reckless shopaholic with few abilities instead of ordering stuff over the phone, a “scamp, and utterly kinetic” (or “all zoom zoom zoom,” because the 8th kid, Suky, preferred to position it) — in reality sort of a ache, whose enduring mystique is owed to not anything greater than the ascent of symbol tradition.

Wohl has maintained what turns out a cool take away from this tough sister, studying her actual start date from a 2015 Trend article and expressing marvel that the mag used to be nonetheless celebrating Edie. A couple of of her passages land as stubbornly, possibly self-protectively, naïve. “I knew concerning the medication, however I had no concept she drank,” she remarks of Edie after seeing her order vodka in a Warhol movie. In a single breath Wohl wonders why no person discovered Edie’s binging and purging at fancy eating places disgusting; within the subsequent she’s noting — bingo — that her sister at all times picked up the invoice.

The Sedgwick youngsters’s grandmother, a Colony Membership member so stratospherically snobbish that she discovered the Social Check in vulgar and the Vanderbilts de trop, as soon as bragged that her naked ft had by no means touched the bottom. Fortunate for Wohl, and for her readers, that she controlled to dig deep into the dust, wiggle her feet — and then run the whole distance.

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