Picks and Pans Review: The Sitwells

UPDATED 07/02/1979 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/02/1979 at 01:00 AM EDT

by John Pearson

Their names are odd, unforgettable: Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell—siblings, poets and writers. Their behavior was outrageous; they railed at each other and at any critic. Their father was rich, impossibly eccentric and cruel. Edith, with her insatiable appetite for praise and publicity, dominates this marvelous volume. She was so homely as a child that she was detested both by her father, who wanted a son, and by her beautiful, silly mother. Later Edith used her friends—-T. S. Eliot, Ian Fleming and Cecil Beaton—to promote herself shamelessly. Her literary politics were far more important than her work itself. This is first rate biography, the best of the year, even if one has never read a scrap of Sitwell poetry or prose. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $15)

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