Warhol by Blake Gopnik

April 1, 2021

Book I am listening to the Audible Audiobook “Warhol” by Blake Gopnik, and I have not yet finished it, but I wanted to share a few notes. The information about Warhol’s childhood background is very useful and interesting. The book is organized into years. There is not much mention of Edie Sedgwick however. I assume the author’s omission is due to there is much information about her that is already out there. I have not yet gotten to the part Valerie Solanas, but part of me resents the idea of giving time and attention to people who shot someone and make them famous. The timeline is different then I had thought. I had previously listened to another shorter biography on Andy Warhol, but I can’t recall the name because I had checked it out from the library as a set of cassettes. The Factory was a place where people could come and hang out and do what they wanted and they would sometimes be filmed or be incorporated into Andy’s Art.  He believed in a realism which means not cleaning up reality to make it appear better. The book did talk about what he wanted to do Edie Sedgwick. He wanted her to star in films that would show her something about herself. He did not believe in telling her to use less drugs, but he finally had to let her go due to her substance abuse issues. I don’t believe Bob Dylan factored  into their break up and separation. Edie was a wild child who said in an interview she just kept taking speed all the time to give her energy to dance to have a slim attractive figure, but then she got unattractive breast implants and appear topless in a movie. Shortly after which she overdosed and died.

Warhol disbanded the Factory and changed it into the Studio. The Studio was a new place he rented and people were not able to just drop in. Maybe he wanted to get away from some of those people? The Studio was very clean and Andy could invite people there. I thought that he retreated to the Studio after the shooting, but it seems that it happened before. The problem with extreme realism is it often does not really work. Andy was able to pull off what he wanted with it, but if someone else tried to do the same thing it would just like not creating any Art at all. One would merely live whatever life they wanted and document and call it Art. For example Andy used a tape recorder to record 24 hours of talk at the Factory on one day in the summer of 1965. The  was then transcribed poorly and then became dialogue for a movie. However, it would have been much more interesting if Andy was to record a long period of time and then pick out interesting highlights. Life goes on all the time, but only certain parts of life are important enough to documented and saved. If you asked people to look back at their lives they would not pick just any random day but one in which something important happened to document. Only a few days in life are really important enough to document. Long detailed documentation of a routine day would actually detract focus from meaningful events in a person’s life which could be considered Art. Also I learned the Che Guevara painting is not a Warhol, but it was done by Gerard Malanga who had been excluded from Andy’s Life and needed money. I would have liked more information on the various Superstars but this book does not have it. There is information about Viva but only when she is quoted. There is almost nothing but a mention of Candy Darling. The Velvet Underground with and without Lou Reed and Nico was encouraged to make their music as screechy and grinding as possible because to bend to public taste in anyway would take away from the goal of realism. This explains why their music is not popular and I had never even heard it. I did at one point listen to the album with a banana on the cover, but I did not like it. Later it turned out I do like the song Waiting For The Man but I had hit skip on the CD Player because it started out with just unpleasant harsh noise. There needs to be a balance between what people would like to do and what will be popular.

I will update this blog if anything occurs to me and I will try not to allow Valerie Solanas to become too important. I have already learned a lot about Valerie from other books. She wrote a screenplay and gave it to Andy who said he would read it and then put it aside and forgot about it. Then she claimed it was her only copy, and so she shot him. As for Edie Sedgwick she came from a wealthy family and all she needed to do was have a normal life, but her family cut her off from money because she kept using drugs. Andy found her to be a liability. The other books took information from other friends of Andy’s. The friends said that Andy said, she would not clean up on drugs, and so he could not use her in his art any longer.

Further thoughts and updates: After the shooting incident the book does address Candy Darling and Morrissey. It is annoying how often this book mentions Morrissey. Not that Morrissey, but another Morrissey, Paul Morrissey. The name Morrissey is constantly dropped and I had to stop listening to go look him up. I was not impressed with his body of work and I don’t understand why this biographer finds him so important. I had no memory of him from prior biographies. Mario Amaya is also mentioned frequently and seems more significant to Warhol’s life. Valerie Solanas comes off as similar to John Lennon’s killer. She wanted to be famous by killing Warhol. Both Warhol and John Lennon liked to hang out with drag queens. And both Warhol and William Burroughs refused to visit their mothers in nursing homes when they had dementia. I don’t understand what miscarriage of justice allowed Valerie Solanas to get out of prison as she was dangerous and criminally insane. I disliked hearing the long passage about how feminists “supported” Valerie Solanas. I don’t see how that passage had an relavancance and I believe this book has an anti-woman bias. I definitely wanted to hear more about Edie Sedgwick. I now feel that this the flaw in the biography. Women are glossed over and seen as less important than the male characters. When Valarie is discussed great attention is given to the clothes and makeup she wore the day of the shooting as if that was the most important thing about her. Once again women are objectified. What men think and do is considered important, but with woman only physical appearance is important. Certainly feminists should not be considered agreeable to murder. Andy was as nice to Valerie could have possible been considering how horrible and abrasive she was with people and how little respect she had for life.

I finished the book and wanted to comment on Andy’s Death. I used to believe the nurse had neglected him and that was why he died. But from what I learned Andy refused to get his gallbladder removed for 15 year because he was afraid of dying in the hospital. In the weeks before his surgery he looked very ill and was taking painkillers as well as valium and speed? (Not sure read different accounts of this) He did not eat very much because he would get sick when he ate foods that was nourishing. All he could eat was simple clear liquids. I believe this self imposed weight lose weakened his heart muscle. The heart is a muscle and extreme weight loss causes the heart to lose weight. The weakened heart can have a heart attack when it is stressed such as during surgery. I also learned many people with hearts that unhealthy because either they do not exercise or they smoke can simple die during or after surgery due to extra stress causing the heart to stop. Using drugs also contributes to poor health. By the time Andy got the surgery it was already too late. He only got the surgery because he had not choice. He delayed it too long. My mother also ruined her gallbladder going on crazy crash diets. Crazy crash diets such as all protein and no carbs can also damage the gallbladder. But in Andy’s case he had a history of gallbladder issues in his family. If Valerie Solanas had not shot him he would not have been so afraid of hospitals and surgeries. He may gotten his gall bladder removed sooner and lived. He also saw a scam artist doctor who told him crystals (meaning rocks) would heal him. Valerie Solanas died in 1988 outliving Andy who died in 1987. When she died she was staying at the Bristol Hotel in San Francisco. I wish I had known about this at the time, as I was living in San Francisco, but I had no idea about anything before the Internet. I was working downtown in 1987. I may have even passed her on the street on the way to the muni metro but was unaware of it.

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