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Andy Warhol (Penguin Lives) Hardcover – September 10, 2001

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Hardcover, September 10, 2001
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Lives
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (September 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670030007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670030002
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #858,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Do a faithful rendering of a soup can, a silk-screened photograph of a starlet, or a film of an empty chair constitute works of art? They do, poet and critic Wayne Koestenbaum ably demonstrates, if their author was Andy Warhol.

Warhol, who once observed that in time everyone would be famous for 15 minutes, himself earned early fame "as artist and whirlwind, as impresario and irritant." That fame endured over a career that stretched over four decades, as does his influence, even in some unexpected quarters: "Martha Stewart owes a lot to Andy Warhol," Koestenbaum volunteers. But Warhol, Koestenbaum argues, was much more than an artist. He helped shape the popular culture of his day; he launched the careers of dozens of musicians and artists; he revolutionized interior design, making his studio, the Factory, "an ambient artwork"; and he used art as a way of exploring matters of life, death, sexuality, and group behavior. He was, in short, a self-made phenomenon, an odd American success story.

The price for that success was high, Koestenbaum writes: the controversies Warhol inspired did not always serve him well, his associates had a habit of dying young, and he himself survived an assassination attempt that gave his later work an air of being "bulletins from the afterlife." This slender biography tells all those stories very well, and students of art and contemporary culture will learn much from it. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

With at least two full-scale biographies in addition to his own voluminous writings in print, it might seem that there is little new to say about the life and career of mass market voyeur Warhol. Koestenbaum, a poet and author of fabulously rococo books on opera (The Queen's Throat) and Jackie Onassis (Jackie Under My Skin), seems acutely aware of this, and gives us a Warhol who is anything but the removed observer of most popular accounts, finding Warhol's own eros and mourning spilling everywhere into his art. The result is an intensely personalized psychologizing of the work; the more philosophically inclined will be horrified, while those looking for a way under "Andy's" implacable surfaces will be fascinated. The famous Brillo boxes become "boxes without openings [that] seem simulacra of Andy's body a queer body that may want to be entered or to enter, but that offers too many feints, too many surfaces, too much braggadocio, and no real opening." Koestenbaum is most trenchant in the sections devoted to Warhol's little-seen films, bringing their shattering experiments in sexual cinema vividly to life, freely and directly relating his own reactions to them … la Pauline Kael at her best. Warhol's achievement in film, while clear to cognoscenti, certainly gets its best popular treatment here. Throughout, Koestenbaum's engagements with Warhol's life and art, tinged with poetic brilliance and surgical dispassion ("these accessories gave [Warhol] an alien aura, as if his vital fluids and gases had been evacuated"), feel very high-stakes indeed, making this book an engrossing battle of wills. (Sept.)Forecast: Koestenbaum, an engaging speaker and notoriously marvelous dresser, should attract fans to his five-city author tour. This book may be a little too queer for the average fan of the Warhol silk screens, but its audacious bodily insistence should win it plenty of reviews and admirers. Theory-heads should check out Andy Warhol, a collection of essays edited by New York University cinema studies professor Annette Michaelson, and including work by the likes of Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, Hal Foster and Rosalind Krauss. (MIT, $16.95 paper 132p ISBN 0-262-63242-X; Nov.)

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a Warhol scholar, and someone who has read dozens of books and essays about him, I would heartily recommend this as an _addition_ to the other works. It's not really a biography in the traditional sense at all, and it certainly shouldn't be the first or only thing you read.
If you prefer a clinical, detached, "just the facts, ma'am" approach - skip this. If you are terrified by 20th century philosophy and psychoanalysis - skip this. If you find it easier to disparage strawman concepts like "postmodernism" rather than actually reading and thinking about continental philosophy (yes, I know it's difficult) - skip this. And judging from the reviews, if you're terribly uncomfortable with sexual themes or "swishiness" in art or writing - forget it.
The book is excellent. The prose is often rich and compelling - my copy is dogeared from all the passages I've marked - and the philosophical and psychoanalytic themes, while not developed, can be very suggestive. Koestenbaum has an excellent reading of many of the films - perhaps the most important and underexamined aspect of his work. Warhol's art is certainly not reduced to postmodernist cliches (as it has been so often elsewhere) nor is it reduced to being "about" his sexual identity. In a striking change, Warhol is not considered as a celebrity or a monster, but like the frail yet determined individual he was, the complex and multifaceted life he led, and the gorgeous, troubling, powerful art he produced. If you don't know anything about Warhol, if you've haven't seen much of his work or any of his films, don't start with this book - you'll be confused and dissappointed. But if you already think you know all about Warhol, and you read this book -slowly - while looking at his work, I think you've find it an incredibly helpful guide.
For real reviews, Hal Foster's review in the London Review of Books
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Client d'Amazon on September 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is an important book, the first biography of Warhol to put his films at the center of the vast project that was Warhol's life and work, life transformed into work. Rather than rely on received ideas, Koestenbaum has availed himself of the overwhelming Warhol archive (from time capsules to scrapbooks); actually watched and considered all the Warhol movies currently restored and available for viewing; and looked at the paintings and sculptures--which is how he can, in lightning bright prose, provide a new beginning for thinking about Warhol. No familiar folksy "Andy" but an artist as strange and daunting as any other this country has produced. Few writers on Warhol ever bother to LOOK AT (and READ) what Warhol did; Koestenbaum does look, and his looking becomes the basis for his illuminating, trenchant commentary. (The electric chic of his sentences is as theoretically bracing as his critical observations.) Too many think they know who or what Warhol was/is. Bravely, Koestenbaum allows his thought as writing to be as new, estranging and probing as Warhol's art. "Ur-sexual" Warhol working non-stop to negotiate the glamourous nothingness and Ronellian stupidity called being or "life": this is the Warhol Koestenbaum pushes, star-like, into the klieg light, finally ready for his close-up.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James R. Francis on August 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is one of my very favorite books. Wayne Kostenbaum's trademark rococo prose enlightens and delights. Clearly enraptured with his subject, he pulls out all the stops: free-associative, linguistically complex interpretations of Warhol's subconscious motivations and sexual neuroses abound. I cheerfully allow the author every metaphorical , grammatical, and Freudian excess, because here, at last, is someone writing about the 20th Century's most notorious and influential artist as if he were human. Significantly, Kostenbaum ushers the reader into an intimate, reverent viewing of the several important, rarely seen, and shamefully under-appreciated films Warhol made the 60s. You will either love this book, and want to revisit it again and again, or loathe it and not even be able to finish it. And, I bet those of you in the latter category are not all that engaging in flirty conversation over an after-dinner drink.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By André Clements on May 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
It is not an academic treatise and should not be read as one. I found it a compelling read once I got into it and that it opened up Andy Warhol's `oeuvre' to me somewhat. Somewhat voyeristic and subjective in attitude but that is a fair price for the humanity and accessibility of the journey. Did not experience the writing as one-dimensional or as homo-fixated as some of the reviews suggest it to be.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Greg Boll on July 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Wayne Koestenbaum's biography of Andy Warhol offers an interesting overview of the artist's life and work, focusing primarily on his creative efforts during the 1960s, when he first achieved fame. The book seems to lay a foundation for Warhol's sexual orientation and experiences as a child being the basis for not only his creativity, but also his perspectives and "quirks" throughout his life. Indeed, in some aspects the biography seems a psychoanalysis of Warhol the man, and sometimes takes liberties with that analysis that go beyond what might be prudent. But that notwithstanding, the biography is very interesting, informative and well-written, given the somewhat unique character and lifestyle of the subject.

In the aftermath of his untimely and negligent death, Andy Warhol's star continues to rise as one of the greatest and most creative artists of modern times, surpassing even the creative genius of Picasso, Dali, Escher and such like . The intrigue grows when one recognizes that much remains to be discovered about Warhol the artist--many of his works, film efforts and other dalliances remain unseen by the public to this day.

For a quick, somewhat cursory but fascinating study of Andy Warhol's life and work, Wayne Koestenbaum's biography is worth the read.
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