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In My Blood: Six Generations of Madness and Desire in an American Family

John Sedgwick, Author
John Sedgwick, Author . HarperCollins $25.95 (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-052159-2
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In this overwritten family biography–cum–memoir, novelist Sedgwick (The Education of Mrs. Bemis ) traces in great detail multiples generations of his wealthy yet ill-starred family. Beginning with his own near suicide, Sedgwick takes the unrelenting trials and tribulations of his family and tries to tie them to some parallel history of the U.S. It doesn't work. Reaching back to the late 18th century, the family Sedgwick was in the upper tier of New England society. In Sedgwick's telling, Theodore Sedgwick, a prosperous attorney, set the family off to its posh but difficult history by swindling an old Native American woman out of her property in western Massachusetts. Building a grand country home—a home that would become both family redoubt and scene of some intergenerational depravities—Theodore suffered from what would now be diagnosed as depression. In fact, depression and madness dog the coming generations most famously in the incarnation of Edie Sedgwick, Warhol superstar, world-class drug addict and celebrity suicide. This memoir is not without its pleasures. Sedgwick has a keen eye for detail and a voracious appetite for family lore and history (Catherine Maria Sedgwick was a popular mid-18th-century author; Kyra Sedgwick is an actress). The finely honed prose glides along effortlessly; it just doesn't add up to much. (Jan.)

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