Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration

David Wojnarowicz, Author Vintage Books USA $14.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-679-73227-3
The New York-based visual artist and AIDS activist whose work has been targeted by Jesse Helms and the Rev. Donald Wildmon as obscene debuts here with a collection of writings marked by stunning originality and sharp polemics. The alternation of poetic observations of a desolate, at times dissolute life on the road and in squalid urban settings with indictments of a homophobic ``establishment'' might at first appear ill-advised; soon, however, it becomes clear that Wojnarowicz's visual and verbal gifts are inextricably bound to his experience as a homosexual in an American underclass. In images, rhythms and verbal textures that often seem like written analogues to his paintings, Wojnarowicz displays an ability to capture the insensate beauty of much of the American landscape, and light it with a burning human hunger: ``Down along the service road the prehistoric silhouettes of sixteen-wheel rigs ground their gears in the blackness. . . . As each cab swung by me there was a video blaze of tiny green and red ornamental cab lights framing the darkened windows containing a momentary fractured bare arm or dim face filled with the stony gaze of road life.'' In the course of this memoir, the author cooly sketches the outlines of a troubled adolescence--parental kidnapping, drug use, prostitution--making survival alone seem miraculous. What Kerouac was to a generation of alienated youth, what Genet was to the gay demimonde in postwar Europe, Wojnarowicz may well be to a new cadre of artists compelled by circumstance to speak out in behalf of personal freedom. This is a book sublime in poetry, fierce in outrage. Author tour. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/06/1991
Release date: 05/01/1991
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 279 pages - 978-1-4804-8961-5
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