Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: WIDOW BASQUIAT: A LOVE STORY, by Jennifer Clement

Widow Basquiat: A Love Story, by Jennifer Clement. Published 2014 by Broadway Books. Biography/Memoir.

Reading Widow Basquiat reminded me of my cool college girlfriend Kate who wore her expensive asymmetrical haircut above chic black outfits and seemed to know everything about movies, art, food and travel. We bonded over the Robert Mapplethorpe poster in my dorm room. She would have known all about people like artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and his lower-Manhattan milieu of the 80s, the setting for this combination of memoir and biography. It's the story of Suzanne Malouk, a young Canadian woman who came to New York in 1980 with red-lips-and-cigarettes dreams and met and falls in love with Basquiat and remained his friend and lover through all the ups and downs until his death in 1988.

Jennifer Clement, a novelist and friend of Mallouk's, writes in a chatty, nonchalant style and interleaves her narration with extensive quotes from Mallouk herself. The effect is like two friends reminiscing, and that's exactly what the book is. It's also a colorful and lively portrait of New York City in the 80s- the art world, the AIDS crisis, drug use and more.

As much fun as the book is, there's a dark side too, something to do with the consequences of fast living and the price of addiction, but what shines through is Mallouk's passion for life and her love for Basquiat and his art.  I blew through the book pretty quickly and enjoyed the quick pace, the flurry of detail and the rich evocation of a time and a place that has ceased to exist through the passage of time and gradual gentrification of Manhattan. I highly recommend it to readers interested in art and New York. And if you're like Kate, you should read it for sure.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from Random House for review.

1 comment:

Becca said...

This sounds like an interesting memoir.

I got an e-galley from Edelweiss this year for a book about Basquiat and I tried to request a print version (alas, it never showed) because it referenced all of his artwork, but the photos of which were not where it was being talked about. It's not easy to go back and forth pages on a Kindle, so it was a DNF for me, which bummed me out so bad. I hope to get a chance to read it in the future, as well as this one.