Sunday, February 1, 2009

Good Read - The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)

This incredibly funny and incredibly Warhol book, released in 1975, is more like a collection of quotations that just happen to relate to whatever the chapter is dedicated to as opposed to an actual memoir or story. But the brilliance of this book is that Warhol offers his succinctly ironic opinions on a number of topics (love, fame, fortune, sex, food, beauty, work, art, success, death), which in turn reveal a little more about this mysterious man. At times he seems to possess a naïve outlook of the world, at others he seems in on some dirty joke that none of us understand. For much of the book, he retains his stylishly aloof, über-cool attitude, only occasionally revealing to us his darker inner thoughts. Numerous times he refers to his 1968 shooting by Valerie Solanas, discussing his emotional and physical scars and his newfound awareness of his own mortality. It’s when he discusses this (either directly or indirectly) does Warhol offer startling real insights on the human condition. He describes his embarrassment of death and in terms of human perception, “it’s not what you are that counts, it’s what they think you are.” He discusses pop culture and celebrity in terms that make involvement or obsession with it seem understandable and beautiful. Throughout the book, Warhol includes fragmented conversations (most with Brigid Berlin) and short biographies of other people (written using aliases), such as the story of his former friend Edie Sedgwick, who he dubbed “Taxi.” This particular part of the book is especially revealing because as much as Warhol publicly denied being close at all with Sedgwick, in his writing of her, he says their relationship “was probably close to a certain kind of love.”
Even though his ideas and life seemed out-there for many conservatives, Warhol is just about as symbolically American as the Coca-Cola, Campbell’s soup, baseball, and Hollywood stars he made his career out of. As influential and masterful as his films and paintings, Warhol’s “Philosophy” of life may be one of his greatest achievements.

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