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Swimming Underground: My Years in the Warhol Factory

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  312 Ratings  ·  28 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,077)
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Sep 01, 2011 Marvin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Daniel Levesque
Dec 27, 2008 Daniel Levesque rated it really liked it
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
Edward S. Portman
Nov 16, 2015 Edward S. Portman rated it did not like it
Il giudizio più che altro negativo è dovuto forse al fatto che mi aspettavo più che altro un’opera saggistica, mentre invece quando ho iniziato a leggerlo mi sono ritrovato davanti un’autobiografica piuttosto acida e altalenante. I capitoli sono ricchi di soprannomi e nomignoli affibbiati a personaggi di secondo impatto della Factory di Warhol e in fondo non risulta strano che gli unici che risultano essere esenti da questi soprannomi siano proprio le figure più famose, ovvero Warhol, Lou Reed, ...more
Victoria Harwood
Feb 18, 2015 Victoria Harwood rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Ok, straight up, I know Mary. We met in the dog park and I immediately realized she was the most interesting, bright and genuine person I had met in LA in fifteen years. Then I discovered that she was an artist and writer and old time drug muse and knew Warhol. And that's when I picked up her book. This is not a book about Warhol but about herself, (or any other girl with too much creativity, a love of life and a penchant for drugs) and the Factory lurks in the background, with ...more
Jun 17, 2008 Chris rated it liked it
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.
Feb 15, 2013 Mandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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?
Apr 21, 2008 Erin rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 02, 2015 Anya rated it liked it
seriously beautiful people doing seriously disgusting things, which is just one of the many "opposites" that woronov observes in her story. it's a well-written book about a crass and talentless culture (you know it's a bad sign when nico doing her hair is loads more interesting than ondine's theatrical performances in "Chelsea girls") and a riveting book about people who sat around doing very little all day. appropriately, context is very important - if you don't know about the lives of Andy, Br ...more
Dec 01, 2007 Jen rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 21, 2013 Julie Stout rated it liked it
Shelves: pop-culture, memoir
very dark and trippy like the movie Trainspotting. Andy Warhol was only a very peripheral character.
Ryan Van Runkle
Feb 02, 2015 Ryan Van Runkle rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 13, 2011 Kurt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 19, 2012 Simon rated it really liked it
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
Nov 03, 2014 Maureen rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 02, 2008 Vittorio rated it really liked it
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
Aug 26, 2014 Terri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: warhol, art, memoir, cpl, the-1960s
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
May 13, 2014 Raphael rated it it was amazing
scary funny brilliant
Karl Schaeffer
Apr 24, 2011 Karl Schaeffer rated it liked it
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.
Aug 22, 2014 Erin rated it liked it
Weird as shit. Not for everyone.
Jan 13, 2008 Marie rated it liked it
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!
Aug 16, 2007 Rachel rated it liked it
Shelves: 2007, nonfiction, memoir
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.
Jun 17, 2008 Cillaann rated it really liked it
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
Erin Tuzuner
Nov 18, 2015 Erin Tuzuner rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Erin by: John Waters
Gorgeous drug memoir from a Factory fixture. Brutal, honest, funny; faintly humming with genius in recollection.
Jan 12, 2008 Rebek rated it it was ok
Another one read in my Warhol stage, from an insider's perspective. Nothing that I hadn't read/heard of before.
Aug 17, 2009 Tina rated it liked it
Interesting view of the Warhol Underground. Not a pretty picture of Woronov or her friends.
Mar 21, 2007 Marion rated it really liked it
Shelves: warhol
A dark portal into the amphetamine subculture within a subculture surrounding Warhol.
Mikko Ihalainen
Jan 06, 2013 Mikko Ihalainen rated it really liked it
Pretty heavy experience, but definitely recommended book of Warhol house.
Jose Sosa
Jose Sosa rated it it was amazing
Feb 02, 2016
Nizam uddin
Nizam uddin rated it really liked it
Jan 31, 2016
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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.
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“I wanted to feel like I could open my mouth and fill it with Pepper's flesh, close my teeth on her skin and tear it away, making blood pump like a fountain over everything - rug, clothes, hair, face - both Violet and I stopped in midair. Pepper's eyes had flooded with tears. It was too easy, she was enjoying this. Her body softened like a sponge waiting to soak up my punches. Her lips smiled the same way Valerie's did. It was as if I had discovered maggots in her flesh. I recoiled from her where she lay on the bed like a piece of rotting meat. ” 3 likes
“When she sat, she crossed her hands and ankles perfectly. Yes, yes, everything was in the classroom. We chatted, bonded, as Brandy flopped around on the silver concrete floor with the silver hook still in her bloody mouth. Both of us were excited. Celinas tried to climb in her purse, which was filled with dirty broken makeup, the true sign of a queen. I was thrilled she had let me look, even slip my hand into it for a moment. I let her huddle near me, but when she tried to clutch my hand I had to recoil. I hated being touched by anything in the human-skin package.” 1 likes
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