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Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages Paperback – October 7, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 1 edition (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061466417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061466410
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #346,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Largo (Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die) offers a kind of Ripley's Believe It or Not for the excess-obsessed teen in everyone. The title is misleading as the historical personages that populate its pages are not neccesarily brilliant nor junkies. Instead, Largo gives an alphabetical biographical listing of actors, authors and artists, politicians and Celtic queens, from the eternal (Van Gogh, Sappho, Charlie Parker) to the obscure (Art Acord, Berthold der Schwarz). The entries are layered between quotes and tangential factoids that include disquisitions on Moonshine Madness and Cross-dressing Artists. Largo's method of selecting his figures is somewhat arbitrary: this might be the first time in recorded history that Boudicca and Joseph McCarthy have shared a volume. The main criterion for inclusion seems to be having a degree of renown and a chemical dependency (although being passionate will do). The text is marred by broad generalizations, dubious metaphors and downright mistakes (Balzac was not the first writer of note addicted to caffeine; Babel didn't come of age during the time of Stalin, but years earlier). While there certainly is an abundance of obscure facts and characters, the quality of the biographical sketches is equally uneven (readers learn little more about Michelangelo, for example, than that the great man rarely bathed and painted the Sistine Chapel). (Oct.)
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Review

“Chockablock with faces, figures, and facts Michael Largo’s Genius and Heroin makes for mad good reading on the divinely inspired, hopelessly self-destructive class. Poe, Piaf, Warhol anyone?” (Elle)

“Meticulous, fascinating, and often intriguingly bizarre . . . I am full of admiration for his achievement--just the ideal book for bathroom reading.” (Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman)

Customer Reviews

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Thank you nice copy.
Julie Calvery
His entries are packed with facts and some of the entries have the depth and flavor of the best biographies.
Author Bill Peschel
There is a known link between creativity and madness, and the link is this book!
Marissa Renee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Author Bill Peschel on October 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
One difficulty with positive reviews is that there seems to be so few ways to say you like the book. Bad books are bad in their own way, but good books only seem to be good in one way.

"Genius and Heroin" is a collection of weird stories about famous people. It tries to position itself as a study of the connection between artists and self-destruction. But, really, it's slumming. It just wants to dish the dirt and parade the freaks, and I'm happy with that. It's a great collection, and that's speaking as the proud owner of the"People's Almanac" series, "An Incomplete Education," John Scalzi's "The Book of the Dumb" and the highlight of my collection: "Who's Had Who," which compiles chains of people linked by "rogers" (I have to mention that you may know two of the authors: Helen "Bridget Jones' Diary" Fielding and Richard "I wrote all those BritRomCom movies starring Hugh Grant that your girlfriend loved and you hated" Curtis).

"Genius and Heroin" is a high-end bathroom book. It's beautifully laid out. The tall trade book fits easily into one hand, and the text is an attractive mix of fonts and interspersed with photos, quotations, clip art, movie posters, Japanese prints and even briefer sidebars. An entry on Lulu Hunt Peters, the 1920s diet guru who died of we now recognize as anorexia, is accompanied by a note about Karen Carpenter; the death of River Phoenix -- see what I mean about this not being a book about geniuses? -- is followed by a list of other actors who died young from drug overdoses.

Author Michael Largo did quite a lot of research. His entries are packed with facts and some of the entries have the depth and flavor of the best biographies. Moreover, for all the obvious candidates (Virginia Woolf, Vincent Van Gogh, Hunter S.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Press on October 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book made me think about creativity and self-destruction in a new way. The author includes many well known icons, as well as an equal number of writers, musicians, and other geniuses who used some kind of drug, drink or obsession to help create. I get that the "heroin" in the title is a synonym for all kinds of behavior that took these greats to the edge and over. Many I never heard of before and I had no idea so many masterpieces were inspired under such conditions. By focusing on the personal "bad" habits of these creative-types, and not on the standard biographical fare, the book makes for an interesting addition to my "Literary Decadence" bookshelf.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tom on June 29, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a Kurt Cobain fan, first thing I did was to seek out his section of the book and now I'm regretting not waiting.The book states that Cobain "..was found in his Seattle home dead with a shotgun wound to his head-discovered by his young daughter, no less." Can anyone tell me why that statement is absolutely not true? The answer is because Cobain was found by electrician Gary Smith, who was to install a burglar alarm in the residence.
Would love to hear from author on this error and while he's at it, he can own up to any other complete failures of research the book may contain before I read further.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tim Rothschild on January 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
For me, this book is the first time anyone has, with such utter conviction and discipline, written a page-turning collage of insightful, honest, and witty mini-biographies revealing the link between some of the most fascinating minds in the history of mankind and some of mankind's most fascinating addictions. It is a great accompaniment to my collection of Robert Greene (48 Laws, Art of Seduction) and Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People) in that it studies some of the same great authors and thinkers that are quoted and referenced in both Greene's and Carnegie's literature. I found it tastefully humorous to find the author's own name listed in the appendix of modern artists, authors, and other influential minds that have undergone rehab. For creative types in particular, this book is almost inspiring--Largo makes his the observation various times throughout the text that much of the greatest art in the world was not created in a luxurious, beautiful mansion overlooking the ocean, but instead in run down hotel rooms at the mercy of a plethora of different addictions. While turning the pages we are constantly reminded that we know so little about the behavior and nature of the human, a subject this book challenges us all to undertake. Largo's charming style of writing biographies in a realistic way--he highlights the bad along with the good in each of his profiles--allows readers to relate to the mysterious creators of the past as well as great artists of the present. For creative people especially, this book is a must-have.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Matlack VINE VOICE on March 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Heath Ledger made the cut which is a good indicator to how up-to-date this encyclopidia of how Artistic types do themselves in with a little chemical assistance is.

Michael Largo is interested in Death. Particularly when it's interesting. More often than not and sometimes unintentionally people make an exit so dramatic or comic that it must be commented on. Largo has an entire series where he catagorizes memorable 'death-Exits' and in "Genius & Heroin" he focuses on how drugs, alcohol and some rather unorthodox use of other, unlikely chemicals can 'Enhance' the memorability of death... And it's certainly not boring!

Seriously, this oddball assortment of deep sleeps could easily write itself since truth is truly stranger than fiction. However, Largo clearly has a lot of fun with his 'interests' and helps emphasize the funny which results in black humor with a nice sunny aura.

Weird? yes, very much so and highly recomended.
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More About the Author

Michael Largo and his family live in Florida with a dog, a parrot, two turtles, a pair of canaries, and a tank of fish. The former editor of New York Poetry and the researcher and archivist for the film company Allied Artists, Michael is the award-winning author of four offbeat reference books and three novels.

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Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages
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