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Old 08-22-2012, 10:43 AM   #1
Prestidigitweeze
Fledgling Demagogue
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Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz

Kindle edition here.

Characteristic review here.

I've met the author, Cindy Carr, a few times and can attest to this: She's truly invested in the work of the artists she not only writes about but adores and needs. She needs them because she herself is so retiring and self-restrained that she has to shriek through them, which is part of the reason I believe in her commitment to this story.

She's also sufficiently objective to tell the story without telling you to be moved. The observation is so close to the subject that empathy succeeds where preaching would surely have failed.

* * * * *

David Wojnarowicz never had the chance to be retiring because he was forced to suffer in public. Beaten horribly as a child by his father -- who once killed and cooked the little boy's pet rabbit, told him it was steak, fed it to him and revealed the identity of the meal afterward -- and abandoned by his mother repeatedly throughout his life, Wojnarowicz had to survive on the street as an adolescent by becoming a prostitute.

He had always written and drawn pictures, but he turned to art and writing exclusively after being forced to live on the street. Sadly, that previous life had a cost, and he died of AIDs at thirty-eight -- a disease he caught from longtime partner, photographer Peter Hujar, who had passed away before David knew he himself was sick.

Wojnarowicz's life is conjured and recounted eloquently in Cindy Carr's bio, but it is also well told in his own words (Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration), and well illustrated by his friend, James Romberger (in the essential graphic novel, Seven Miles a Second).

* * * * *

Disclaimer: A few of my older friends spent a lot of time with D.W. I myself met him once in SoHo at what proved to be his final public reading.

The venue was full that night, and many members of the audience were in tears by the end of the reading: they wept as he read or in the silence afterward, which felt like the inevitability of his fate. We all knew he was dying, and he read and spoke with the urgency of a person who had no use for masks -- whose only remaining interest was in saying what was important.

Knowing of his past of abuse, abandonment and shame, and the bleakness of his immediate future, it was heartbreaking to hear him call Hujar "the father I never had."

Last edited by Prestidigitweeze; 08-23-2012 at 07:24 AM.
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