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Widow Basquiat

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4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  1,020 Ratings  ·  139 Reviews
In this extraordinary and unusual book, Jennifer Clement explores the turbulent relationships that Jean-Michel Basquiat had with his muse Suzanne Malouk and with the art establishment. The result is a distressing yet beautiful profile of a strange, powerful love striving to flourish in the face of horrendous outside pressures. And while Suzanne held firm, Basquiat sought r ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published June 24th 2003 by Canongate U.S. (first published 2001)
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Rowena
Apr 04, 2016 Rowena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"He smells of leather, oil paint, tobacco, marijuana and the faint metallic smell of cocaine. He wears handmade wool sweaters and long Mexican ponchos. He never walks in a straight line. He zigzags wherever he is going."- Jennifer Clement, Widow Basquiat

The 1980s in New York were some interesting times, and Basquiat had maybe one of the most colourful lives I've ever read about: shopping with Madonna, hanging out with Gene Kelly and Andy Warhol, selling paintings to Debbie Harry."Widow Basqui
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Lynx
Sep 08, 2016 Lynx rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this book totally blew me away.

At the young age of 15 Suzanne Mallouk left her family and home in Canada for the bright lights and gritty streets of NYC. It wasn't long before she became lover and muse to the wonderfully talented Jean-Michel Basquiat who was on the verge of blowing the art world away. Their turbulent, passionate and ultimately doomed love affair was on-again, off-again for the next 8 years, from his rise to art world acclaim and deep into his downward spiral with drugs and
...more
Heather Fineisen
Nov 17, 2014 Heather Fineisen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, review, biographies
I love this book. It is a poem. It is about strength. It is about feminism. It is about marketing. It is about politics. It is about childhood. And yes, it's about an iconic artist and one of his lovers but it's really about so much more if you choose to dig deep and see it. This is not for everyone. Some readers who like a straightforward narrative will most likely be discouraged with the mixed voices in this fictional biography/memoir of Basquiat and Suzanne Mallouk. But I think Clement captur ...more
Isaac
Jan 05, 2009 Isaac rated it really liked it
I'm always suspicious of biographies of artists. Where films are concerned, there's the inevitable shaky camera scene (when the artist begins to seriously lose it or ups the ante on his coke habit). And regardless of the medium, while mainstream auteurs tend to excuse the subject's deplorable personality for the sake of the opus, there's a far more widespread and disturbing habit of conflating one's understanding the life with an understanding of the work's function or relevance and you wind up ...more
Aurora
Feb 07, 2016 Aurora rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"Widow Basquiat was a morbid nickname, given to me by Rene Ricard, many years before Jean-Michel died."

When Suzanne Malouk was 15 she left her home in Canada and came to New York. That's where she met Jean-Michel Basquiat and where they fell in love.
Jennifer Clement tells the story of their doomed, drug-fueled, on-again, off-again relationship in a series of short vignettes written almost like prose poems, and often sharing the page with Suzannes own recollections in italics.

"Let me tell you,
...more
Mariah Drakoulis
Feb 04, 2016 Mariah Drakoulis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tumultuous, whirlwind of a book. Engrossing in that I couldn't imagine a lifestyle more different to my own. What I particularly enjoyed was how much imagination there was putting it together; Jennifer Clement took a good deal of creative liberty with Suzanne's recounts, but instead of results that could easily be pretentious she managed to create rich and visceral scenes, each chapter like a painting itself. With just two hundred odd pages, Clement manages to capture Basquiat's fleeting life ...more
Julia Lipscomb
The story begins with Suzanne's early life and her synesthesia. She smells and feels colors. She feels her own skeleton. This sets it up when she meets Jean-Michel Basquiat, and they share a deep, romantic and sexual relationship. They're intimate on different levels, and they view art and the world through the same lens. The story is told through a series of prose poems, alternating between the author's narration and Suzanne's words. Race is talked about throughout the book, from the perspectiv ...more
Travis
Jul 06, 2015 Travis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant! I loved the way Jennifer Clement put this Memoir together. The story is told beautifully and honestly and is very easy to read, it's unlike anything I've read, I absolutely loved it. Raw writing, a page turner. Recommended to all, above all, all aspiring artists.
Lisa
Nov 13, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
I wish more biographies were written as poetically as this! You totally get the Jennifer Clement style in this biography -- but it totally works with the ups and downs of the affair between Basquiat and Mallouk.
Rayyan
Aug 19, 2016 Rayyan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read!!! this!!! book!!!
Honestly just wow. I read this in one night. I sat and read for about an hour straight until I got half way through (reading each chapter twice sometimes because just once was not enough). It's not easy to read. I had to take a break halfway through because there was a lump in my throat and a knot in my heart. This book has this way of being haunting and beautiful and encapsulating and it just swallows you whole but not before turning you inside out.
The style in which it w
...more
Tala
May 27, 2016 Tala rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I am *definitely* not a fan of Jennifer Clement's writing style, and this book is no exception. I only picked it up for insight into Basquiat's life before watching the 1996 movie, and I think the way to best describe it is jumbled. The events are all over the place, repetitive, and generally follow the formulaic theme of JMB and Suzanne indulging in hedonistic activities including getting high on drugs and having sex, usually in that order.

I also believe that the A Love Story part of the title
...more
Filipa André
Oct 19, 2015 Filipa André rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written exploration of Basquiat as seen through the eyes of his muse Suzanne Mallouk.

This is a fascinatingly odd love story that portrays his peculiarities as an artist and lover in such a beautiful way(!!) while giving you an idea of Suzanne's role throughout Jean-Michel's immersion into the art world and NY's artistic sphere of drugs, fame, money; being friends with Haring, Madonna, Warhol...loved it.
Kirsten
Feb 25, 2016 Kirsten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great addition to the Basquiat library. Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art by Phoebe Hoban is a great straightforward intro biography, but this is a wonderful poetic reflection on a significant relationship. Very quick read, but lovely. And interesting. And a little heart-breaking.
Josh
Apr 07, 2016 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had a preconceived idea of what it would be like being near the top of the art scene, especially in New York. This book confirmed that: lots of drugs and lots of very unique personalities. Great insight.

I'm never trying heroin.
Tahmina Begum
Mar 31, 2016 Tahmina Begum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Purely fascinating. I'm so happy I have not lived in the art scene in the late 1970s to 80s and also sad. But then even happier as this book shows the true madness in being a muse and the mind of artists themselves.
Remy Kothe
Feb 06, 2016 Remy Kothe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I devoured this book and loved it on so many levels. I loved the writing. Every brief chapter began with a lyrical rendering of a scene followed by an italicized first person account/remembrance of the scene. It really worked and created such a rich, textured portrait of Suzanne Mallouk's life and times. Such a slim book spoke volumes. This book was a love song to the NYC that I dreamed about. These kinds of people are why I came here. Alas, I hit the tail end of the freaky, funky, very f'd up t ...more
Kathleen
An account of Suzanne Mallouk's relationship with Jean-Michel Basquiat as told by Mallouk's friend Jennifer Clement. I didn't care for the spoken word poetry-like narratives, and found Mallouk's recollections in her own words (in italics throughout) to be the strongest aspects of the book. Famous male artists so often have a woman in the background inspiring and supporting them, a "muse," and I am glad that Clement took the time to put Mallouk's story down and make it part of the historical reco ...more
Amu
Jul 06, 2016 Amu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sekava kuvaus sekavasta elämästä. Aineksia olisi ollut syvällisempäänkin teokseen.
Cecilia
Apr 15, 2015 Cecilia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Does this book deserve all five of my stars? I am not sure so I am erring on the side of greatness. I confess I did not know who Basquiat was. As much as I love art, I couldn't recall a single piece without looking it up (Oh!). This book though is not about him but about his lover and muse, Suzanne Mallouk, who is in her own right a brilliant & talented artist, and so intellectually gifted that she eventually becomes a doctor (I didn't see that coming). This book wound up in my hands only be ...more
Nerisa  Eugenia Waterman
Art has always been an essential part of self-expression in the African American Culture. From the spoken words of music…To the unspoken words of visual expression…And Jean Michel Basquiat left his mark on the World as not only one of the most amazing African American Artist…But as one of the most amazing Artist of his time.


As a huge fan of Jean Michel Basquiat work, I could not wait to get my hands on this book. First, I must warn you... if you are looking for a chronological order of the trial
...more
Anna Weimer
Dec 31, 2014 Anna Weimer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was such a fascinating, short read. I was intrigued by the premise even though I didn’t know anything about artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The prose of this story was so unique in that is was written in short, titles pieces, almost like different short stories collected all together. The author’s own words are also placed (and distinguished by the text) Jean-Michel Basquiat’s partner’s own words about the times. Their love was an unhealthy love that was tempered with drug use from both o ...more
Camille Pobst
Oct 19, 2014 Camille Pobst rated it really liked it
When I picked this book up, at first I was thrown by the style. I wasn't sure if I could read a whole book written in this sort of fleeting mentality with really explaining what was going on. However, the more I read and learned about the life of Suzanne and Jean-Michel the more I felt that this style matched it perfectly. I don't usually like books with a lot of sex and drugs, but I felt the author mentioned it and moved on. Obviously it was a part of their scene, but we didn't need all the gru ...more
Noelani
May 21, 2015 Noelani rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
I am wavering between 3.5 and 4 stars. I knew very little about Basquiat going into this book. What made me buy it was the fact that it was written about Basquiat and Suzanne Mallouk by a third party (Jennifer Clement). Though I wasn't sure about Clement's relationship to the two upon going in, I was intrigued by the tone and poetic narrative that Clement invoked. As I looked through the first few pages, I noticed that it was written in a close third person, almost within Suzanne's head. I wonde ...more
Shakeia
May 16, 2016 Shakeia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent read. Going into it, I had no expectations and it was wonderful.
Lisa Ahlstedt
Nov 05, 2014 Lisa Ahlstedt rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you're looking for a book with a traditional narrative structure . . . this isn't it. The book is really just a jumble of recollections from Suzanne Mallouk, lover and friend of 1980s artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. While they were together, both were doing massive amounts of drugs, so I suppose it's not surprising that her memory is vague and disjointed. Sometimes the narrator/author seems to be telling the story, and other times Suzanne is directly relating a memory (these instances seem to be ...more
Aaron
Mar 18, 2016 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first saw the Basquiat movie in 2001 and became enamored with the artist.

Then I saw Downtown 81, and then really became fan, as I felt it was a better representation according to Basquiat.

The some years later, I saw Radiant Child, and everything made better sense.

I'm still a huge fan of his art and his ideologies. It's unfortunate that he felt he had to prove to the world who he felt who he was, but in the end he ended up serving the devil anyway.

Fast forward a few days ago when I read, 'Wido
...more
Isaac
Sep 09, 2015 Isaac rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Widow Basquiat is a biography of Suzanne Mallouk, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s long-time lover and muse, written by their mutual friend Jennifer Clement. I was unfamiliar with Clement as a writer (her 2014 book, Prayers for the Stolen, about women in Mexico’s drug culture, has been on my "to read list). I enjoy biographies of this particular era wherein the decadent art scene of 80's NYC is represented. The history behind Basquiat's process, the stories behind the paintings, is dealt with in an intima ...more
Dana DesJardins
Confession: I only got halfway through the book. I wanted to rate it nonetheless, to pull the laudatory 4+ star rating down a bit. I am always dubious about historical fiction, which this novella is, though Clement was apparently part of the scene she describes. She doesn't appear until the coda (I also read the ending), and the rest of the novel is a recontruction of what psychoanalyst Dr. Suzanne Mallouk was thinking and doing when she was just plain old Suzie, living in squalor in New York wi ...more
Terri
Jan 26, 2015 Terri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I imagine it must be hard to capture this time period in the art world. I've read a number of books about this time, and recognize many stories and characters in this book too. But this book is wonderful and different in that it's kind of a poem about a poetic time, which seems to due the era great justice. Really enjoyed it!
Sooz
Feb 11, 2015 Sooz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this slim volume tells the story of a fairy tale gone horribly wrong. Jean Michael Basquiat and his Venus do not meet so much as they smash into each other in a fit of excesses. too much passion, too many contradictions, too weak too needy, too head strong too selfish, too many drugs. way too many drugs.

I enjoyed reading Widow Basquiat but have to say part of that is because it is so short. Clement's poetic style of writing and the length of the book perfectly suit the story - the brief brillia
...more
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Jennifer Clement is the President of PEN International and the first woman to be elected since the organization was founded in 1921. Clement grew up in Mexico City, Mexico. She studied English Literature and Anthropology at New York University and also studied French Literature in Paris, France. She has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine.

From 2009 to 2012, Clement was president of PEN Me
...more
More about Jennifer Clement...

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“But the reason I decided to go to New York was because I had seen Iggy Pop and I thought I had seen God. And because I had sent to Interview magazine for Rene Ricard's first book of poetry, The Blue Book. I had never sent for anything before but something told me to do this. I had read that book over and over again like a Bible. I realized that a book can reach out and embrace you like an arm and make you walk away from everything you thought you understood.” 2 likes
“What most people don’t understand about Jean-Michel is that his crazy behavior had nothing to do with being an enfant terrible. Everything he did was an attack on racism and I loved him for this.” 1 likes
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