cover image An Autobiography

An Autobiography

Richard Avedon. Random House (NY), $100 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40921-2

In this oversize assemblage of 284 photographs, a loose record of faces, moments and events that have shaped his life, eminent photographer Avedon excels in brutally frontal, stark black-and-white portraits that strip away pretensions and personas. Ezra Pound, Marilyn Monroe, Louis Armstrong, Rudolf Nureyev, Dorothy Parker, Janis Joplin, Andy Warhol, Samuel Beckett, Malcolm X and Alberto Giacometti are among the luminaries indelibly captured. The juxtapositions of images are often meant to provoke or unsettle. Poet Allen Ginsberg, in a nude embrace with his lover Peter Orlovsky, shares facing pages with dour Henry Kissinger. There are intimate family snapshots, glimpses of the fashion world, documentary photos of the civil rights struggle. Faces of a Colorado meat packer, a Texas trucker, mental hospital patients, Vietnamese napalm victims and corpses in Sicilian catacombs jostle against shots of Isak Dinesen, Gerald Ford, debutantes and rock singers, generating an implicit dialogue about power and powerlessness, fame and illusion. A haunting portrait of our age. First serial to Newsweek; BOMC alternate. (Oct.)