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Staying Up Much Too Late: Edward Hopper's Nighthawks and the Dark Side of the American Psyche Hardcover – June 13, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (June 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312333420
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312333423
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,669,366 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hopper's Nighthawks is one of the most iconic images in 20th-century art, but Theisen's analysis of the "desolate, alien, denatured, perverse, [and] desperate" masterpiece is too facile to support all the cultural weight he wants to place upon it. The interpretations veer between the obvious (he characterizes the urban setting as representing an absence of nature) and the bizarre (he imagines the painting's four figures engaging in group sex). Some sections add flashes of insight—like a discussion of Hopper's familiarity with commercial illustration that segues into the influence of Warhol's Pop—but in trying to make Hopper resonate with everything from cool jazz to Robert Crumb's underground comics, Theisen overreaches and occasionally stumbles. Discussing film noir, for example, he dwells on the "movie screen–like proportions" of Nighthawks, although Hopper completed the painting a decade before the introduction of wide-screen projection. At times, the fledgling critic can't seem to make up his mind: is the uniform menu of the diner supposed to be depersonalizing, as he suggests in one chapter, or subversively democratic? As Theisen meanders through his checklist of cultural pessimism, some readers may conclude that Nighthawks is better off letting its powerful imagery speak for itself. 8-page color insert. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Advance Praise for STAYING UP MUCH TOO LATE:
"A personal meditation on Hopper's most famous painting, Staying Up Much Too Late should introduce Gordon Theisen as exactly what he is: one of the true originals in American letters. In Staying Up Much Too Late Gordon Theisen dismantles the American Dream like a savvy child patiently unscrewing an Erector set Shangri-la. He begins by skewering American optimism, ends with a hymn of praise to un-American pessimism, and in between demonstrates convincingly that Edward Hopper's great painting Nighthawks is imbued with the underhistory of America. We live in the loneliest country on Earth, Theisen tells us, and his darkly vivid language, like Hopper's brushwork, renders it with deadpan accuracy. What a lovely book."
--John Vernon, author of A Book of Reasons

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John Leighton on August 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book examines the dark underside of American life, the kind ominously represented in Nighthawks, the famous painting by Edward Hopper. Theisen quickly sets up the difference between the optimistic, sunny, daytime America and the world of night, and not even night so much as the non-mainstream undiscovered parts.

I enjoyed this book particularly much because of the disparate elements the author brings together. although to some people, talking about Pulp fiction, Weegee the photographer, and Hopper together is hard to follow, I picked up right away on his meaning and felt really interested to read a scholarly unpacking of the imagery, meaning, and themes.

I compare this book to Paul Fussell's oeuvre, books which say, "Ever notice this theme is in a lot of things?" and then go on to enlighten the reader and make you smarter and more educated than you were before.

Definitely buy this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Edward Hopper's paintings, well known to almost everyone in this country, are unique in that they convey a sense of loneliness, yearning, suggestions of dark thoughts, pessimism, and hopelessness - not exactly the moods one would want to examine on a daily basis, but certainly painterly images that cause us to pause when we encounter them in museums and collections.

Gordon Theisen is a fine writer and in this book STAYING UP MUCH TOO LATE: EDWARD HOPPOER'S 'NIGHTHAWKS' AND THE DARK SIDE OF THE AMERICAN PSYCHE he manages to successfully use the famous night diner painting of the artist to address the current mental state of affairs seeping into our consciousness. He wisely covers every aspect of the artist's life and work, giving us the necessary details of his life and his idiomatic stance in American art, spreads those ideas into his output thus assuring us that the one painting of the title is not an isolated image, and then begins to apply his ideas to our cultural status - at times not comfortable, but always creatively informative.

If Thiesen strays a bit too far from his title subject, drawing on his own interpretation of concepts he perceives as more than just legitimate diversions, then he can be forgiven by the reader who want more from an author than a term paper presentation. Thiesen indulges in reminiscing about our cultural icons such as diners, cigarettes, coffee, plastic, jazz, war, sex, film noir, and personality disintegration in a time of easy drugs AKA medications. Perhaps these are topics many would not elect to explore, but then they are bookmarks to the greater understanding of where our current culture stands.

If indeed our artists are our shamans then Hopper as Thiesen presents him is a prophet of sorts.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By colinwoodward on September 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
At first glance, I expected this to be a heavy duty history of Hopper's painting, with copious documentation, contemporary views of the work, and lots of secondary source citations--something like reading a published dissertation. I was pleasantly surprised to find Theisen's book is not an ordinary work of scholarship. It's not so much academic art criticism as it is a comment on American culture and mores. Theisen uses Hopper's seminal work, "Nighthawks," as a jump-off point to discuss film noir, Pulp Fiction, Andy Warhol, pornography and Puritanism, the Beats, Russ Meyer, the Great Gatsby--you name it. At times, it feels overstuffed, and it contains unnecessary editorializing (about the Iraq War, for example) and some sloppy mistakes (as one amazon reviewer has noted, Theisen wrongly says Gatsby kills himself at the end of Fitzgerald's novel). But overall it is an imaginative and engrossing work that will inform those who don't know much about Hopper the man and who always found him an understudied artist. Theisen's book could have a place on a cultural studies or U.S. history shelf, and it would make interesting reading for a freshman American history survey class. An unusual, though very readable thought piece.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Whitehill on September 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found the last chapters of the book fairly8 helpful--with their discussion of the films noirs and how Hopper's works fit into that framework.

The book, for the most part, however, is disjointed. It reads like the term paper of a smart but procrastinating college student who needs to finish a term paper by a deadline and doesn't spend time polishing his thoughts or meshing them with the subject at hand.

The author gets into manifold discussions about numerous icons of American life--and loosely links them, at the end of the section, to Hopper's work. He also tosses his own biases into the discussions, mainly dealing with his opinions on George W. Bush and the War in Iraq--half baked thoughts that date the book unnecessarily. He takes for a given, for example, that Bush's tax program is aimed at aiding the rich (and screwing the poor?). One does not have to be a Bush supporter to think of other reasons behind the tax plan(monetary policy, for example?).

The author also throws in a bit too much slang into his discussions--especially sexual slang. This self-conscious "with-it-ness" diminishes the author's rhetorical power and is off-putting.

The book was fairly interesting, although I found it not to be a page turner. Instead, it was similar to sitting next to a bright undergraduate at a dinner party and listen to him ramble on until you feel you have to get up and leave the table for a while.

He has some noteworthy points to say about Hopper's life, especially his abusive relationship with Jo. For the most part, Hopper was a taciturn man. Unlike, say, Salvador Dali, who never ceased talking about himself and everything else that came to mind, Hopper was fairly much a closed box.
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