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Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the '70s & the '80s Hardcover – April 14, 2015

4.2 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“The fact that a writer of Brad Gooch’s significance has been witness to remarkable events and people, and has written about them, is a genuine gift to the world. Smash Cut is a beautiful and important book.” (Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize winning author)

“A gorgeous memoir...a potent mix of love, art, and death.” (Vanity Fair)

“That Gooch is a splendid writer will not be left in doubt for anyone who delves into his new memoir. . . . Literary memoirs abound; this one excels in beautiful honesty.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Brad Gooch’s story is harrowingly honest written with love and in grief, a deftly articulated insightful history that is at once personal and deeply resonant. Brave and powerful--I couldn’t put it down.” (A.M. Homes, author of May We Be Forgiven)

“So glamorous, so sexy, and so devastating, this love story will be the gay picture of the 70s/80s. That it took place between two beautiful, talented young men only makes it the more romantic and poignant.” (Edmund White, author of CITY BOY)

“Far more than a memoir, Smash Cut is a bold and tender anatomy of love in an age of ambition, art, and changing light.” (Brenda Wineapple)

Smash Cut is a love story, an elegy, an intimate history written with enormous grace by a novelist and poet, who is also a master biographer. ” (Honor Moore, author of The Bishop's Daughter)

“Gooch brings the city to life with all its promise and possibility. A personal, intimate look at our country’s creative history that will also keep you up all night and make you see the city in a new way.” (Susan Cheever)

“Engrossing, intimate. . . . This candid memoir lovingly evokes a life, and a world, lost.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Like everyone who ever met Brad, I fell instantly in love. If YOU’VE not met him, reading this book will be the next best thing.” (Andrew Tobias, author of The Best Little Boy in the World)

“In Gooch’s visceral, gut-punching narrative, the arrival of AIDS turns the city into a cemetery. . . . This is a memoir that needs to be read by those who remember and those who never knew.” (Interview Magazine)

“It is both unparalleled in its intimacy, focusing on his romance with the filmmaker Howard Brookner, and its universality, as a testament to the havoc wreaked by the AIDS pandemic, something he witnessed firsthand in Brookner’s decline and eventual death in 1989.” (Kirkus)

“A powerful, poignant and especially frank memoir. . . Rife with humor, glamour, audacity and tragedy, Smash Cut is a witty, whimsical portrait of art and artists from an unforgettable time period.” (Edge Media)

“In his memoir Smash Cut, Gooch traces the life of ‘70s and ‘80s New York with the same fashionable tongue of a literary connoisseur, approaching the details of his life with humour and poignancy.” (Pop Matters)

“Gooch has documented his life... with unselfconscious ease that makes his memoir a literary achievement more than a simple biography... It’s short but impactful, like a poem you didn’t realize you’d been waiting your whole life to read and stumbled across by chance.” (Boy Culture)

“Acclaimed literary biographer Brad Gooch turns to the contours of his own life, particularly his romance with film director Howard Brookner, in this brave and intimate memoir... The elegiac book traces complex terrains of sex and drugs, ambition and love, and art and mortality with tender honesty.” (GOOP)

Smash Cut is an eloquent, deeply felt exploration of love and ambition in dangerous times. . . Smash Cut [is] a moving, memorable and important book.” (Miami Herald)

“Gooch is a cool witness to the era’s excess and his own conflicting behavior; his quiet honesty is bold. Smash Cut is a love story and an elegy. It’s heady, sexy, heartbreaking, and most notably, even in the face of death, written not from anger, but love.” (Bay Area Reporter)

“Gooch excels when reporting on the cruelty wrought by H.I.V. that would eventually take Brookner’s life-and on the complexity of a relationship that defied category.” (New York Times Book Review)

From the Back Cover

Brad Gooch, the author of the acclaimed City Poet, returns with a searing memoir of life in 1980s New York City.

Brad Gooch arrived in New York in the 1970s, eager for artistic and personal freedom. Smash Cut is his bold and intimate memoir of this exhilarating time and place, complete with its cast of wild bohemians, celebrities, and budding artists, such as Robert Mapplethorpe, William Burroughs, and Madonna. At its center is his love affair with film director Howard Brookner, recreated from fragments of memory and a crosshatch of conflicting emotions, from innocent romance to bleak despair.

Gooch and Brookner’s intense relationship is challenged by sex and drugs, and by a culture of extreme experimentation. As both men try to reconcile love and fidelity with the irresistible desire to sample the legendary abandon of the era, they live together and apart. Gooch works briefly as a model in Milan, then returns to the city and discovers his vocation as a writer.

Brookner falls ill with a mysterious virus that soon has a terrifying name: AIDS. And the story, and life in the city, is suddenly overshadowed by this new plague that will ravage a generation and transform the creative world. Gooch charts the progress of Brookner through his illness, and writes unforgettably about endings: of a great talent, a passionate love affair, and an incandescent era.

Beautifully written, full of rich detail and poignant reflection, recalling a city and particular period and group of friends with affection and clarity, Smash Cut is an extraordinary memoir and an exquisite unflinching account of an epoch.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1St Edition edition (April 14, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062354957
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062354952
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For anyone of my generation of gay men in America, children of Stonewall who came out in the 1970s, reading a memoir by another survivor of this era is inevitably tough.

Brad Gooch’s new book, recounting his stormy life with filmmaker Howard Brookner, was every bit as harrowing as I expected it to be. Reading gay memoirs of the 1970s and 80s is hard, because we all lived through the same nightmare wherever we were.

What made this eerier for me is that I was at Exeter with Howard Brookner, the semi-subject of this tragic romance. He was a year older, and we didn't know each other, but I remember him clearly. He was one of the long-haired "bad boys" who smoked and didn't socialize with preppy boys such as I, who spent our time sublimating our sexuality into loud clothes and high grades.

So Gooch's memoir, set between 1978 and 1989, is sort of a parallel life to the one my husband and I lived eighteen miles to the west in suburban New Jersey. We were never cool, and never involved in the art and film scene as Brad and Howard were; but we knew people who were. We were on the edge of that world of beautiful men and hot clubs and sexual freedom. From our leafy suburban hilltop we could see the lights of Manhattan.

Reading this wonderful, heart-breaking book is like watching a car crash in slow motion. I wanted the ending to be different, but I knew it wouldn't be. We saw it happen too many times in our own world. AIDS paid no attention to issues of bridge and tunnel.

What makes “Smash Cut” so different from Paul Monette’s “Borrowed Time: an AIDS Memoir,” or Larry Kramer’s fictionalized memoir “The Normal Heart” (a play and film), is that it is infused with love, not anger.
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Format: Hardcover
I like to say, “rumor has it, I spent my early 20’s in New York City in the 1980s.” OMG! It was completely out of control! Let’s face it, those of us who were there and partook of the fruit that was Manhattan have only the Lord above to thank for still walking this earth. I certainly didn’t indulge like Mr. Brad Gooch, but I hung out pretty close to the players with Eddie Mapplethorpe, Robert’s little brother, and we got to spend a lot of time in the inner circles at gallery openings and after hour parties.

Brad Gooch lived in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s when there were no cellphones, you had to drop a dime in the phone booth to make a call, there were no hookup sites, there bars, no clubs, but there were warehouses, freight elevators and cellars. New York City was all about partying, celebrities and making art and music. SMASH CUT(HARPER/HarperCollins) is his memoir.

SMASH CUT captures Gooch’s intimate relationship with film director, Howard Brookner. Through a haze of sex and drugs, Gooch pieces together memories of their years together, apart and back again through to the end in 1989. It includes a cast of celebrities, up and coming artists, including Robert Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol, William Burroughs and Madonna.

It’s not an easy read. Brookner falls ill with a mysterious virus called AIDS which turns into a pandemic and rips through the Gay community. Gooch writes of the merciless progress of his lover’s illness and their heartbreaking suffering.

“Rarely does something that big happen in life. We didn’t really have any conception of it. It seemed like science fiction, but it was happening.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Only being familiar with the work of Brad Gooch via the gay bookstores I once owned, it was interesting meeting Howard Brookner through Gooch's eyes. Having my own relationship ended by AIDS I found myself equally invested in the details of Brad and Howard's interaction. Like another reviewer noted, even though the conclusion was obvious, I found myself in tears most of the last chapter, not just for Howard - and Brad - but for all those I knew along the way deprived of the senior days I now experience. Much has been written on AIDS but Gooch's fine visual writing offers a fresh view and a realization, as if more was needed, of the lost talent of an entire generation.
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Brad Gooch has written a prose poem in tribute to his love for Howard Brookner. He relives the early fears and ecstasies of young love, the secrets and intimacies they conceal from one another, and the ambition that grows out of their testosterone-fueled adventures. Both men grow into artists on the threshold of fulfillment. But Brookner is felled by the cruel virus that hid from all of us as the party escalated. Gooch conveys deep empathy for his lover and the prime that he was denied. He finds words to portray the suffering and strength that Brookner and he ultimately achieved. He looks frankly at the beauty and profanity of their relationship, the leveling of class and position that HIV created, and the healing forgiveness each man gave to the other and himself. This book is equal to Brad Gooch's soaring portrait of Frank O'Hara, who would have understood and admired them deeply.
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