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What Did I Do?: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Larry Rivers
     

What Did I Do?: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Larry Rivers

by Larry Rivers, Arnold Weinstein
 

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What Did I Do? is the testimony of one of America’s finest artists and includes memorable perceptions [and gossip] of friends, lovers, rivals, and the jazz and art worlds: Frank O’Hara, Terry Southern, Leo Castelli, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Clement Greenberg, Tibor de Nagy, Jackson Pollock, Delmore Schwartz, Rudy Burckhardt, Hans Hofmann, W.H.

Overview

What Did I Do? is the testimony of one of America’s finest artists and includes memorable perceptions [and gossip] of friends, lovers, rivals, and the jazz and art worlds: Frank O’Hara, Terry Southern, Leo Castelli, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Clement Greenberg, Tibor de Nagy, Jackson Pollock, Delmore Schwartz, Rudy Burckhardt, Hans Hofmann, W.H. Auden, Miles Davis, Andy Warhol. Born Larry Grossberg in 1923 in the Bronx, NY, Rivers began his career in 1940 as a jazz saxophonist and composer, changed his name and became an American icon to artists everywhere. A great figurative painter, Rivers is also acclaimed as a precursor of pop art; an artist with an unashamed interest in sexuality and the private moment, he is also celebrated for bringing history back into contemporary painting. Candid, thoughtful, and funny, this book is among the finest of artists’ memoirs. This edition includes 16 pages of color and 130 black-and-white illustrations. “What Did I Do? is the harrowingly true tale of a man whose early years were, by his own accounting, governed by often brutal instincts. He responds crazily, rashly to jazz and sex and drugs, and finally to paint, becoming Larry Rivers, one of the most humane and interesting and idiosyncratic visual artists of our time.”—Kurt Vonnegut

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Rivers's exuberantly hip, sexually freewheeling autobiography displays his relentless, almost exhibitionistic candor, as some of his paintings do. Born Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg in 1923, he was raised in the Bronx by a hypercritical mother and a father reportedly guilty of bizarre sexual improprieties with children. A bebop jazz saxophonist with a heroin habit, Rivers abandoned his first wife and their sons in 1947. He later married his Welsh housekeeper, a ``deliciously unique female''; they separated in 1968. Written with playwright-director Weinstein, this gossipy collage dissects the incestuous social world of a New York avant-garde that included John Ashbery, Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Koch, Andy Warhol, LeRoi Jones and Delmore Schwartz. Rivers is most emotive when discussing his ``romantic fling'' with poet Frank O'Hara. Somewhere inside this messy self-portrait is the intriguing story of how Rivers found his path as a brash, innovative artist. Illustrated. 25,000 first printing; author tour. (Nov.)
Donna Seaman
Painter Larry Rivers describes himself as "ballsy" and that's an understatement. His conversational autobiography, whipped into shape by longtime friend and playwright Weinstein, is audacious, frenetic, explicit, hilarious, and touchingly generous in its self-exposure. Bronx born, Larry Rivers, originally Irving Grossman, found the arts via the moan of a baritone saxophone. A bebopper, Rivers doped and gigged and drove his first wife crazy with neglect. Jazz led to painting while all avenues led to sex. As Rivers irreverently recounts the gossip and goings-on of the postwar New York art scene, dropping names like Helen Frankenthaler, Andy Warhol, William De Kooning, Clement Greenberg, John Ashberry, Robert Rauschenberg, and John Cage, he simultaneously maintains a Henry Miller-like litany of sexual escapades from boyish onanism to homosexual encounters to a lifelong obsession with voluptuous women in their 20s. Coyly and pointedly addressing his reader as "dear voyeur," Rivers confesses to insecurities and fears, loves lost, suicidal moments, and drug addiction. He also illuminates his complex relationship with poet Frank O'Hara, the details of his second marriage, and his love for his children. His blatancy modulates into reflectiveness as he confronts his past, rekindles old affections, and remembers seminal inspirations. An artist's autobiography like no other, this is a pyrotechnic performance--initially explosive then dazzling, arcing, finally and gracefully, back to earth. This may well be the most talked about art book of the year.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060190071
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/01/1992
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
498

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