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To Repel Ghosts: The Remix

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To Repel Ghosts: The Remix [Paperback]

Kevin Young
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

September 27, 2005
Revamped from its original "double album" version of 350 pages into this unique "remix," To Repel Ghosts captures the dynamic work and brief life of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

In spare, jazzlike verse Kevin Young tells the story of Basquiat's rise from the mock prophet and graffiti artist SAMO to one of the hottest painters of the 1980s ("blue-chip Basquiat / playing the bull / market"), exploring the artist's bouts with fame and heroin, mourning his untimely death, and celebrating his legacy. Along the way Young riffs on Basquiat's paintings and sayings, on the music he loved, on the artists he ran with (Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, among them), and on the black heroes (Charlie Parker, Muhammad Ali, Billie Holiday) who inspired him.

Young's poetic channeling of Basquiat--a jostling, poignant brand of downtownspeak--makes for an urban epic in the tradition of Langston Hughes's "A Dream Deferred." To Repel Ghosts, along with Young's Jelly Roll: A Blues and Black Maria, his recent book of film noir verse, forms an American trilogy--Devil's Music--that explores other art forms through poetry. In its creation, Yound has become a poet whose work speaks both for and beyond his genre, with a music all its own.

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To Repel Ghosts: The Remix + Book of Hours: Poems + The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness
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Editorial Reviews


""To Repel Ghosts is vivid and sometimes eloquent because Kevin Young writes as if the meaning of his subject, the much-mythologized Jean-Michel Basquiat, is up for grabs."
-- Bookforum
"Ghosts tangles with a pantheon of historical and cultural figures and comes out swinging. . . . Young's use of sampled text from Basquiat's paintings and graffiti gives these poems a freshness welcomed by readers hungry for meaningful beats."
-- Black Issues Book Review

From the Inside Flap

ART-WORLD PHENOMENON Jean-Michel Basquiat was prolific in his short lifetime, creating an exhilarating new art inspired by music, language, and black American cultural icons." To Repel Ghosts synchronizes the harmony and discord of Basquiat's canvases, adapting them as a bass line to improvise and play upon. Young renders ambitious, celebratory poetry of the everyday and the exalted -- a double-album in verse, a jazz symphony, a hip-hop opera -- taking Basquiat's funkified history and making it sing.
Structured on two "discs," To Repel Ghosts shows five "sides" of the artist, exploring the rise and demise of a painter who helped break through the art world's color line, first as SAMO(c) and then as a downtown art-scene wunderkind.
Here are riffs on -- and extended rhapsodies for -- a pantheon of black genius: ballplayers, comic book and folk heroes, boxers, and especially musicians: Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Robert Johnson, and Grace Jones. This kaleidoscope of lives emerges in "To Repel Ghosts to provide a unique foil to Basquiat's own bout with fame.
As an urban epic in the tradition of Langston Hughes's "Montage of a Dream Deferred and Federico Garcia Lorca's "Poet in New York, "To Repel Ghosts poignantly charts Basquiat's era, its popular, social, and racial energies and excesses. An album of our times, it is a powerful statement on a now-gone genius, and our recently completed century.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (September 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037571023X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375710230
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,173,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I was already a fan of Kevin Young's more recent books when I picked up "To Repel Ghosts" at a used bookstore. I also happened to be familiar with the story of arts world phenom Jean-Michel Basquiat as well. But still, I was surprised by the depth, complexity and surprises found in this book.

The scope of "To Repel Ghosts" is enormous. Kevin Young trains his keen eyes on not only Basquiat -- the life he lived, the people who knew him, what drove him and his art -- but on Basquiat's own obsessions: the people, objects and themes which populated his art. Young tells the story of Basquiat's life, yes, but it ways that surprise and reinvent themselves in all its 350+ pages, a true testament to Young's command and ambition.

For instance, Young lifts phrases from Basquiat paintings (which Basquiat himself sometimes lifted off of other people) to use in this poems, so in doing so creates hybrids of Young and Basquiat's poetics. Young also quotes (in poetry and as stand alones) other people's views of Basquiat, both positive and negative, allowing us breathers from Basquiat's wild thoughts as well as insights into the journey Basquiat was on. Young also responds directly to Basquiat's art work, writing numerous poems responding to one painting each. And this is just a few examples of styles and approaches which Young utilized in creating this book. And the stunning end product is a dense hybrid-world, where you are constantly zooming inside and outside of Basquiat's mind and his art. You become obsessed with Basquiat's obsessions, and yet are kept soberly aware of Basquiat's harrowing future, the choices he is making (or not making) which will lead to his early demise.
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