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Comment: Near fine. Paperback. 2008. May contain remainder mark. Originally published at $16.99.
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Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages Paperback – October 7, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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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)
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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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #326,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great read for voyeurs and the morbidly curious, it's a much better version of Hollywood Babylon, the book introduces you to every artist, writer, painter and performer under the sun and gives us a birds eye view of all their flaws as well as their triumphs, this book is at times depressing but you are introduced to long list of forgotten writers and artists that are worth looking into again. Highly Recommended!
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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I couldn't wait to read this book but I was very dissapointed. I've caught a few errors and after that point it was difficult to believe the rest of what I read. I also thought the stories would go into more detail. It seemed that the deaths from 100+ years ago had elaborate details while more recent deaths seemed short and sweet. I truly love to read but this was not an interesting read for me. Sorry, I wanted it to be more.
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Format: Kindle Edition
GENIUS AND HEROIN is entertaining but marred, unfortunately, by a number of problems—from small to large:

* The title is misleading, for a number of reasons. For one thing, not all the individuals included here qualify as geniuses, artistic or otherwise. For another, not all of them had anything to do with heroin. As stated in the introduction, some had struggles with alcohol or “the slow-motion suicide of obsession.” (Is obsession, as implied here, always a slow-motion suicide? Many would take issue with that.)

* As the posted Publishers Weekly review states, Mr. Largo’s selection of figures is rather arbitrary and the text suffers from broad generalizations, dubious metaphors and downright mistakes (as a number of readers have also pointed out): Balzac was not the first famous writer to have been addicted to caffeine, for example, and Babel was not a contemporary of Stalin. Furthermore, the quality of the sketches is uneven, while the writing is fun but too often glib (slick and superficial).

* Most significantly, however, the author’s assertion about “a surprising link between creativity and self-destruction” is intriguing but unproven. It may be true that many creative people over the centuries have engaged in self-destructive behavior but Mr. Largo has not demonstrated that the two go hand-in-hand.

In short, this book represents an idea that is interesting but was not conscientiously pursued to completion.

Daniel K. Berman, Ph.D., Amazon author
The Newest Story of O: How to Legally Pay 0% Interest on the Money You Owe & Eliminate Your Debt in a Fraction of the Time—Secrets to Making the Credit System Work in Your Favor
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