cover image Widow Basquiat: A Love Story

Widow Basquiat: A Love Story

Jennifer Clement. Broadway, $16 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-553-41991-7

Clement (Prayers for the Stolen) creates a stunningly lyrical portrait of Suzanne Mallouk, the longtime girlfriend of painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, that is original, insightful, and engrossing. Narrating Suzanne’s childhood in Canada and her troubled relationship with the avant-garde street artist up until his death, the brief passages alternate between Clement’s poetic voice and Mallouk’s plainspoken accounts. The author, who was a close friend of both Mallouk and Basquiat, eventually emerges as a secondary character in the narrative—a confidante to Mallouk. Clement crafts her story with intimacy but leaves it free of sentimentality or moralizing. When Basquiat died, Clement writes, “Suzanne covers her mouth with her hands... There are no teeth inside her words.” At another time, Mallouk “was able to sleep for seven days and her body fell beneath her when she tried to walk.” The book benefits from this favoring of poetic truth over realism. While filled with pop culture anecdotes art fans might seek—Andy Warhol and Rene Ricard both make appearances, for instance—Clement’s account is an honest love story above all else. Agent: Claudia Ballard, William Morris Endeavor. (Nov.)