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Tortured Artists: From Picasso and Monroe to Warhol and Winehouse, the Twisted Secrets of the World's Most Creative Minds Paperback – March 17, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A surprisingly sophisiticated and oddly brilliant work -- part popular science and part cultural criticism -- that blends comic observation and trenchant insight into a literary treasure as difficult to put down as it is to classify." -Rain Taxi Review of Books.


"It's a weighty subject, and Zara tackles it with gusto. His research uncovers the details that make his subjects human to us." -The Santa Fe New Mexican

About the Author

Christopher Zara (New York, NY) is a writer, critic, and journalist with more than ten years' experience covering entertainment and the arts. He is a media and culture reporter for The International Business Times.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Adams Media (March 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1440530033
  • ISBN-13: 978-1440530036
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #848,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've never understood the public's infatuation with such insipid creatures as Kim Kardashian, Lindsey Lohan or any reality show "personality", when there are plenty of genuinely interesting people to read about. Many of these people are showcased in Christopher Zara's book "Tortured Artists". Did you know that Joey Ramone was born with a phantom twin attached to his spine? I can't say that I did. As an art historian, I felt that I already knew quite a bit about artists and other historical figures, but this book kept me hooked with new nuggets of fascinating information. Also it's one thing to relay these facts; its altogether different to synthesize those facts into an insightful story on that individual and demonstrate how these things affected them and their work. But this isn't dry psychobabble. This is very entertaining reading. Zara's writing style is witty and very relatable, with popular cultural references that are sure to amuse. I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't know about you, but sometimes I find myself with my "artist-y" friends and other creative types, and while sitting around an open bottle of wine drinking the conversation will inevitably drift to minutaie about various artists. As they go on about a particular influence or major figure in a particular field of music, literature, or art, I find myself grasping for something cool to say about "so-and-so". But really I don't have much to add, regretably, unless "so-and-so's" life was featured late-night on a made for tv movie on Lifetime (just as an aside, to show that I'm not a complete failure, my arcane knowledge specialty is in politics and geo-politics, so watch out when we steer the conversation towards the 1988 Presidential campaign!).

Then along came this great book! It's really one of those books that when you pick it up and start leafing through it you find yourself wanting to read more and more. I'd say that they were like intellectual potato chips, once you read one chapter you're ready to read the next one, and the next. But they're more like intellectual Doritos, because they're a bit spicy and have a great stylistic zing to them that make it seem like you are already friends with the author. Just another fun art-sy creative type sitting around a bottle of wine - only now I have something interesting to say, because I've read this book.

So, if you are interested in pop culture, history, art, literature, or music - you're going to really enjoy this book. If you don't like those topics, well, god help you. You must be an insufferable bore and I pity your co-workers.
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Format: Paperback
As an art student, I was appalled at how the author approached the topic of mental illness within the art world. Mental illness is not a precursor to creativity. There are millions of perfectly happy artists. These illnesses should also be examined extremely more seriously than what this joke of an author is writing. Zara uses this trope of the "tortured artist" to create a book purely based on stereotyping and dehumanizing artists to the sum of their illnesses. Awful literature not worth your time.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was very disappointing. I had expected to read about the psychology behind the "tortured artists" of the title, but the book instead read like the column blurbs in People Magazine or some other gossip rag. I'm sure that the book would be entertaining for some looking for (very) light reading, but for those looking for serious commentary, this is not the book for you.

Irritatingly, Christopher Zara's diction is often questionable-- for example, many awkward uses of the word "uppity" in the wrong context. Worse, he tries much too hard to be funny, inserting all sorts of superfluous and unnecessary pop cultural references. It gets grating after reading the fifth reference to current American TV shows. I don't understand why he shoehorned these references in-- they won't help garner an audience and it certainly dooms the book to aging very badly. There is also a glaring lack of citation for the "facts" he liberally throws around. This, in combination with all the tired references all over the page, makes it difficult at times to separate facts from "jokes": eg. when he refers to Jane Austen as appearing to have "facial edema", it's hard to tell if he's making fun of her portrait or if he's serious. Finally, the ugly caricatures of the artists just makes the whole book impossible to take seriously. Perhaps this is Zara's first book and he will improve from here.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book a lot. It's a series of short essays about acclaimed artists broken into chapters that categorize their particular angst - bad childhood, unrequited love, drug abuse. It's especially handy to have around if you're interrupted a lot when you're reading as each little story about the artists isn't very long and it's easy to put down and pick back up again.

What this book really did was get me thinking about the link between pain and great art. Would any of these artists trade their "greatness" in order to have a happy life? Was creating art that transcends the ages worth being tormented and miserable during their lives? Would I be willing to experience deep pain across my life in order to produce a work of art on par with the artists listed in the book? I don't have an answer for any of these questions, but they certainly made me pause and reflect.

Also, the illustrations in the book are very fun and really added to the work.
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