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Widow Basquiat: A Love Story

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  3,815 ratings  ·  383 reviews
The beautifully written, deeply affecting story of Jean-Michel Basquiat's partner, her past, and their life together

New York City in the 1980s was a mesmerizing, wild place. A hotbed for hip hop, underground culture, and unmatched creative energy, it spawned some of the most significant art of the 20th century. It was where Jean-Michel Basquiat became an avant-garde stree
Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Broadway Books (first published 2000)
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Average rating 4.37  · 
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 ·  3,815 ratings  ·  383 reviews

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Barry Pierce
Artists' biographies are usually some of the most boring books you will ever read. I know this, having spent three years powering through them at university. The artist is born, usually into a wealthy family, and they then go to an art college or an academy where they learn nothing and develop their own style as a rejection to everything they have been taught. Then they become famous and die. There it is - every artists' biography ever.

Jennifer Clement rejects this formula. Instead of writing a
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"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
Jul 27, 2015 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
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read, usa
Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of those artists who tend to vanish behind their own larger-than-life myth: The free-spirited, flamboyant genius who lived fast and died young. Jennifer Clement works against this distorting narrative, and she knows what she's talking about: Not only did she know Basquiat, his girlfriend Suzanne Mallouk has been a friend of hers.
Basquiat's "Self-Portrait with Suzanne" (1982)

"Widow Basquiat" is a mixture of longer quotes taken from interviews Clement conducted with Ma
Heather Fineisen
Nov 06, 2014 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
Roman Clodia
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intense, subjective look at a relationship that is toxic yet binding as Suzanne is drawn into the charismatic orbit of Jean-Michel Basquiat against a background of the febrile 1980s New York art scene.

High on drugs, radically creative, Basquiat sees art as activism, driven by his early realisation that there were no Black male artists in museums (and how telling that it's only now, forty years later, in the wake of Black Lives Matter, that this has become a public conversation with curators
Dec 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I wasn't that familiar with Jean-Michel Basquiat and his art, other than hearing his name mentioned in other non-fiction books set around the same time period that he lived and worked. The 60's-80's NYC art scene was the perfect setting for artist memoirs. But this memoir isn't really his story, but the story of his muse Suzanne Mallouk instead.

This particular memoir is interesting in the way it's constructed - partly told through Mallouk's own words and partly told through Jennifer Clement's pr
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it

"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,
Mar 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, read-in-2016
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
Marcy Dermansky
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I bought this yesterday in the gift shop of the gallery where I saw a Basquiat exhibit. This book is so f---ing good. A memoir that reads like a novel that told me everything I wanted to know about the man behind the paintings. Now I can see them, the boxers and all of the crazy words and the portraits and they mean something new. I had never even heard of Suzanne.
Julia Lipscomb
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it
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
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
Sep 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a little gem of a book that I picked up used in hopes of finding something inspiring to read to knock me out of the real world for awhile. I was drawn to its opening pages right away. Each chapter provides an arresting blend of author Clement's poetic glimpses into Suzanne Mallouk's life and back story, in a series of almost impressionistic retellings, followed by Mallouk's own recountings of the same event.

Funny thing is this memoir brought me back to my own real world of living in NYC
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The rare book I want to read again immediately upon finishing.
Mariah Drakoulis
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Trav Rockwell
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Andrew Smith
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Went from knowing very little about Jean-Michel and the New York art scene to having an insatiable interest in it. Moving and poetically written.
May 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
“You know, I kept no souvenirs. I did not want to be a tourist in my own life.”

This was not what I expected, I expected a simple and plain biography but that's not what I read, I read a visceral and poetic account of Suzanne's and Basquiat's relationship.

Jennifer Clement, a long time friend of Suzanne's wrote this biography in a reflective and transformative manner. It showed the life of Suzanne growing up, how she met Jean-Michel Basquiat, and their erratic lives together up until his death.

Nov 03, 2014 rated it liked it
An elegantly written book depicting horrendous abuses. Suzanne Mallouk becomes the lover of Jean-Michael Basquait shortly after moving to the United States from Canada. Basquait is a street or graffiti artist and because of his incredible drug abuse and generally unhealthy lifestyle, Suzanne Mallouk becomes known as the Widow Basquait. They have an on-again, off-again relationship but even when they are in a relationship, Basquait is not faithful. Their relationship is characterized by drug abus ...more
Feb 06, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Karl Gruenewald
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: artists
A painfully personal look at one of the 20th century's most important artists, Jean-Michel Basquiat, his lover Suzanne Mallouk, and tumultuous life they shared before his untimely death at age 27. Jennifer Clement's Widow Basquiat is written in a visceral sort of way that will prove quite jarring to anyone expecting the objective language of a typical biography, coming across more like morbid poetry. This is balanced by recollections of Suzanne Mallouk written in first-person, lending the book a ...more
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: may-2018, kindle
I read Jennifer Clement's Widow Basquiat all in one go, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I really liked the style of this memoir, with its very short chapters, and with Suzanne's own memories included at the end of the majority of them. It felt almost like reading a novel; the narrative was sharp and shrewd, and the minutest of details were focused upon. Through her intimacy with Suzanne, and her knowledge of the relationship she had with artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Clement demonstrates their incredi ...more
Reh Lakhani
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"He never buys her presents or clothes. Only food. Whenever he is happy he brings her all kinds of Italian cakes and pastries. She has eaten profiteroles, petits fours, éclairs, Japanese jellies, meringues and marzipan. Sometimes the refrigerator is completely filled with these packages wrapped in paper and string."

"He was attracted to people for all different reasons. He was attracted to intelligence more than anything and to pain. He was very attracted to people who silently bore some sort of
Remy Kothe
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book in preparation for a Basquiat exhibit at the end of the month and it blew me away. Jennifer Clement wrote this in support of her best friend, Suzanne, Jean-Michel’s “widow”. It was so special and heartbreaking. There’s been a lot written and filmed and said about Basquiat but I found this to be incredibly honest and poetic, and I appreciated the insightful view into Suzanne’s life itself. There was something about Suzanne that caused Basquiat to stare at her bartending for ...more
Hayden Eager
Mar 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a great book for anyone who thinks they know who Basquiat was or idolized him - you won't afterwards. The format is strange to get used to at first, but it ended up feeling like poetry, and the memories seemed better preserved in those beautiful snippets. It's absolutely insane what these 2 went through together. This is a less-detailed, less beautiful, more fucked up "Just Kids". Wish I could see home videos from those days. ...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

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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.” 5 likes
“You can leave but you can always come back. You can live here again. Life can be a circle, not just a line.” 3 likes
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