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Swimming Underground: My Years in the Warhol Factory

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3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  251 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Swimming Underground is Mary Woronov's blazing memoir about her near lethal experiences in Andy Warhol's Factory in the late '60s. Woronov takes us on a surreal trip through this infamous circle -- including Ondine, Lou Reed, Gerard Malanga, International Velvet, Rotten Rita, and Billy Name -- shooting up speed, starring in Chelsea Girls, living with the Mole people, spinn ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 1st 2000 by Serpent's Tail (first published 1995)
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Marvin
If I had any romantic ideas of what life in the Warhol Factory was like in the mid 60s, they are gone now. Mary Woronov paints a dismal picture of no-talented drag queens, drug addicts and losers who gravitated toward a talented artist who was just as talented in the art of using people. For that matter, she does not portray herself very well either, Woronov comes across as a violent speed addict who hated men and people in general unless they were further down in the gutter than she was. What m ...more
Anita Dalton





I discussed this book on my site, I Read Odd Books. You can read the entire thing here.

Review snippet:

Perhaps lives were saved but the scene ends thusly:

By the third day we were so exhausted that Ondine ended up in the bathtub trying to suck his own dick and I lay on my back with my neck on the bathroom threshold using the door frame as my imaginary guillotine (there comes a time when everyone needs their own guillotine). When I asked Ondine why he didn’t just get someone else to blow him, he p
...more
Daniel Levesque
So vivid. Even if you have never been on a five day methamphetamine bender, you'll "get it". If you have been on said bender, this book will make a LOT of sense.
The one and only Warhol factory "tell-all" that has an author who takes responsibility for her own involvement rather than painting ugly pictures of all the other superstars. (Hence the "MY Years in the Warhol Factory")
Mary is just as hard on herself in this book as she is on Viva and Ultra Violet. And Mary was there, man. This is not
...more
Ryan Van Runkle
Excellent insight into the personalities that fueled Andy Warhol's scene. Woronov was there when it happened and she writes candidly about the day-to-day vicissitudes that tend to be erased/ignored from traditional attempts to narrativize this scene. NY in the late sixties sounds tough and Woronov was nineteen when she arrived at Warhol's studio, having run away from her upper class painting education at Syracuse University. I had the privilege to hear Woronov speak during a class I took at the ...more
Chris
A totally entertaining if you like to read memoirs of historically relevant, drug addled youth. I have a fascination with the Warhol scene so I like adding to my perspective. If you are looking for one book about the Warhol era, this is probably not the one. But it's a really quick read, so if you want to sit on the beach and pretend you were a speed freak in the sixties, maybe it's what you're looking for.
Mandy
This is one of my most favorite Warhol scene biographies. It seemed more real than all the others I've read. It was scary and ugly and just how I expected life in the Factory to be.

One thing I don't understand: Why is it I can't remember the things I did 2 months ago, but Mary can remember so many conversations that happened 25 years ago when she was out of her mind on drugs?
Erin
Any thoughts I had about living an artistic-bohemian lifestyle doing lots of speed are now squelched. Interesting read about people whose drug-induced reality is attractive in its possibilities for imagined metamorphisis and living mythology. Equally a disturbing read, making me feel slightly sick to the stomach.
Jen
I read this a year ago (for the second time).
I just love it, a window into the old NY art scene and all of its insanity.
Julie Stout
very dark and trippy like the movie Trainspotting. Andy Warhol was only a very peripheral character.
Kurt
Mary is not, in this book, a very pleasant person to spend time with. She's spiteful, vindictive, petty, seething, sneering, introverted, judgmental, occasionally violent, she lacks empathy and feels uncomfortable in her skin. While this may seem off-putting (and is, actually) I was still compelled enough to finish this quickly. Although she would probably spit at me for saying so, I felt sorry for her and wished I could help her out in some way, she seemed so lost and desperate. Her prose is ef ...more
Simon
Swimming in The Underground By Mary Woronov
Well in the time between my finishing reading the
book reviewed above and writing the review of it
I read this book from cover to cover. To be
honest I could have read it in a single sitting
it is that rivetting a read.
This is basically Mary's memories and
hallucinations of her time as a Warhol Superstar.
It revels in telling the seemy truth of her life
in the Factory and New York, there are good
memories of first how she got hooked into the
Factory cr
...more
Maureen
Gird your loins, and your veins. Woronov paints a journey that is simultaneously dark and electric, and I loved every word of it. As compared to Burroughs, et al, her internal dialogue and narrative threads are more approachable, but no less mind-bending depictions of the psychic experiences and observations of the restless youth who experienced the fame, sex, drugs, performance, and culture of Warhol's zeitgeist. Not for everyone - but for those willing to strap themselves in, it's worth the wi ...more
Vittorio
Almost everything I have read about The Factory is interesting although I am not a big fan of Warhol's art. (I've even hung around some art groups that were Factory wannabes). But Warhol is responsible for helping promote one of my all-time favorite bands, The Velvet Underground, (I just listened to the whole "Peel Slowly" box set last month), and some of the movies are fun.

In this book Woronov talks about her days as a dancer with the Velvets and acting in some of Warhol's films. "The Chelsea
...more
Terri
This is another enjoyable memoir from a Factory regular. If it had been published when I was in high school, I almost definitely would have read it then. It's short, generally easy reading. Woronov unapologetically writes about her drug use, sexual ambiguity, cruelties, and family and religous issues. She seems neither proud nor ashamed of the dark areas of her past. In the end, she reserves her most tender sentiment for her late companion Ondine. Reading this in 2012, I was reminded of Patti Sm ...more
Raphael
scary funny brilliant
Karl Schaeffer
Wow, I didn't know too much about Warhol except for the Campbell soup cans. I didn't learn much more form Woronov's book except that she seems to have a lot of anger issues and spent much of of time described in the book drugged up. Woronov fancied herself a cutting edge actress. It looks like she's made a life for herself as a b-grade actress. I don't know if she's happy with her life or not. She didn't seem too happy during her time with Warhol.
Erin
Weird as shit. Not for everyone.
Marie
In the weird and wacky world of Warhol and the Factory, there were many partakers to the scene. But you were either in or you were out. This is an interesting tale of excess on all counts, with some insights on what it was like to be in, then out with Warhol!
Rachel
Mary Woronov's memoir about life in Warhol's factory (post-Edie), life living amongst the Mole People and life after all of that. Its a short read and interesting for anyone interested in the factory.
Cillaann
If you are looking for a book about the Warhol era, this is probably not the best choice. It is an interesting memoria though. So I probably would pick up anything on the subject
Rebek
Another one read in my Warhol stage, from an insider's perspective. Nothing that I hadn't read/heard of before.
Tina
Interesting view of the Warhol Underground. Not a pretty picture of Woronov or her friends.
Marion
A dark portal into the amphetamine subculture within a subculture surrounding Warhol.
Mikko Ihalainen
Pretty heavy experience, but definitely recommended book of Warhol house.
Heather Judith
Heather Judith marked it as to-read
Jan 27, 2015
Colleen
Colleen marked it as to-read
Jan 24, 2015
Puma Perl
Puma Perl marked it as to-read
Jan 21, 2015
Sansan Gilbreath
Sansan Gilbreath marked it as to-read
Jan 21, 2015
Pola
Pola added it
Jan 19, 2015
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Mary Woronov is an American actress, well known for her roles in Cult films; she has appeared in over 80 movies. She first made headlines as one of Andy Warhol's Factory superstars, and danced with The Velvet Underground in Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable. She is a published author of such books as Blind Love and Swimming Underground: My Years in the Warhol Factory.
More about Mary Woronov...
Snake Niagara Wake for the Angels WARHOL told by WORONOV - Swimming Underground: My time at Andy Warhol's Factory (Mary Woronov Collection) Blind Love

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