7 Miles a Second

David Wojnarowicz, Author, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook
David Wojnarowicz, James Romberger and Marguerite Van Cook. Fantagraphics, $19.99 ISBN )978-1-60699-614-0
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Originally published in 1996, Wojnarowicz’s impressionistic memoir is the story of his hustling on the streets of New York in the early 1970s and then, 20 years later, being stricken with AIDS in the face of a society reacting with a mixture of horror and indifference. The author’s prose is poetic, arriving with a light touch while delivering a heavy, dark, and understandably angry message. Part of what makes the book unusual is that it does not go out of its way to be uplifting. It is, for once, not about silver linings. It’s about having lived a very hard life, paying a very heavy price for it, and then being hated and reviled for it. Wojnarowicz’s brutal hopelessness has a jarring clarity; there’s no denying that his sometimes hallucinatory depiction of an uncomfortable reality is all the more convincing for his refusal to pull punches. Wojnarowicz was a successful artist, but a life bookended by poverty and AIDS in a nation often indifferent to both is hardly a recipe for happiness. Romberger and Van Cook’s art is hyperactive, with splattery color that suggests the out-of-body acid-trip world of contradictory values and constantly shifting danger that Wojnarowicz lived in. (Feb.)
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