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Andy Warhol: A Biography

(Penguin Lives)

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  286 ratings  ·  29 reviews
An intimate depiction of the visionary who revolutionized the art world

A man who created portraits of the rich and powerful, Andy Warhol was one of the most incendiary figures in American culture, a celebrity whose star shone as brightly as those of the Marilyns and Jackies whose likenesses brought him renown. Images of his silvery wig and glasses are as famous as his re
Paperback, 236 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Open Road Media (first published September 10th 2001)
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3.56  · 
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 ·  286 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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Jun 25, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have retained one sentence from this bio that I use all the time. It's something like, "De Kooning and the abstract expressionist were always getting drunk and vomiting and punching one another in the face. Andy was very much a response to that whole way of art."
Jun 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Koestenbaum writes of Warhol's "piss paintings: "Jackson Pollack's drips, which had a urinary or seminal reference, turn queer when Andy repeats them, as if he were laying a metaphoric hand on his predecessor's "paintbrush," Warhol's... joking euphemism for the micturating genitals." This imaginatively written work reminds me of Marcia Davenport's "Mozart": neither can strictly be called "biographies", but there is no "life interpretation" sections at libraries. Biointerpretation? Biofiction? Wh ...more
M Pau
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book gives you an insight to Andy's life. From his birth to the end of his days and all the in between troubled, artistic, talented life.

"He was a maker, in love with productivity"
Russell Chamberlain
Good book for analysis of the art, but less so the man.
Frank Karioris
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely brilliant. More than that, superbly well written. Worth its weight in gold just for the Introduction: "Meet Andy Paperbag".
GK Stritch
Andy Warhol Analyzed by Wayne Koestenbaum, Professor of English, CUNY, from Penguin LIVES series--much bosh, some interesting.
Wish I'd taken more pictures of passages I liked in this book, which I'm writing notes on 5 months after reading it (having a goodreads for book notes was supposed to be about preventing this mem loss) because there were a lot of them, but here is the only one I have:

"...Julia lies on her side, in bed. Andy says, 'Mom?' She looks up and says, 'What?' Then the scene ends. This is their final recorded encounter: her last word to Andy, as far as his art knows, is 'What?' My impression, from listen
Mar 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
It reads like a biography of Warhol by someone who really just wants to write a monograph about Warhol's films. Kostenbaum treats the actual details and narrative of Warhol's life as either an inconvenience to dispense with or as a skeleton for his attempts at art analysis and criticism. It doesn't help that Koestenbaun, who works himself into knots finding nice things to say about some of Warhol's more nakedly commercial work and creative failures, completely shrugs off the Velvet Underground: ...more
I have read a lot of books about Andy Warhol both ones that he has authored and books written by others. This one is different because the author never met him and this book was about the interpretation of his art. According to the author most of Andy's art was sexually motivated, and I agree he loved to provoke and expose. But the book was a bit one-note.
I was listening to this book on audio and as I went through a drive-thru window I left it going while I completed my transaction and the woma
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, art
I really give it 3 1/2 stars, but I'm a fan of Drella so I bumped it up. Overall a good start to finish of his life, but I felt it was bogged down with numerous names and dates and lacked a certain emotional dimension. Very good analysis and description of his prolific film career and read like a university lecture in parts. I learned a few things and have a greater understanding and appreciation for his work. Time to give The Velvet Underground and Nico's catalog another listen, especially the ...more
Oct 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wayne Koestenbaum wrote the best biography on Andy Warhol. I think this maybe the case because he is writing from a 'gay' angle, and Warhol if nothing else is the ultimate 'gay' artist. Koestenbaum has a great understanding of the underground gay scene of NYC sixties and life in the late 50's as well. Even if you don't like Warhol (seems like an ok guy) or his work (here and there), the reader can capture a particular scene which I think is super important for the aesthetics that was produced in ...more
Mar 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Warhol aficionados, people who've read Victor Bockris' Warhol biography
Shelves: andy-warhol
Koestenbaum veers wildly from incredible insight on Warhol's life, work, and career to tedious intellectual wankery -- often two or three times in the course of a page. Sometimes it's fascinating, and sometimes you can do nothing but roll your eyes.

Definitely worth reading, but I'd highly recommend reading Bockris' Warhol bio first. That one supplies the facts; this one emphasizes theory (and Koestenbaum's personal reaction to Warhol). Don't turn to this first as a comprehensive (or even brief
Sep 26, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really didn't like this book. It was not what it said on the cover - it was not a biography. Its details were sketchy at best. There was a major consideration of AW's films (none of which I've seen) but very little explanation of how AW came to fame or really how he developed. It just seemed to be a riff on Andy being voyeuristic and surrounded by others taking drugs. Other than screen prints of already iconic figures, I got no impression of how much work AW has left for posterity and whether ...more
This would be better described as a Warhol Filmography than a biography. Also, there were several instances, the most glaring being Warhol and The Velvet Underground, in which the author writes, "this is beyond my area of knowledge" and proceeds to skip over that section of Warhol's life...what the what?!? Any good biographer would know to research. Further, any good editor would not let that stand.
Michael Armijo
Nov 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
...about a "repetitive" artist.

Frankly, I didn't know very much about Andy Warhol until I read this book. I learned how sexual and abstract (to use one of his favorite words) he really was. The book is a nice overview. It makes me want to learn more about him and see more of his work. There is a wonderful source reference at the end of the book for anyone who may want to continue research and study of WARHOL. He definitely made a mark in the art world for the 20th Century. ....
Mar 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Andy... what a guy. Koestenbaum gives a fascinating, impressionistic view of Warhol unlike say Victor Bockris book which is more straight (no pun intended) biography. But he lived thorugh much of Warhol's heyday so his book is well worth reading if you want to know who all the characters are that went throught he revolving doors or Warhol's 'Factory".
Liene Rumpe
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Melanie  Hilliard
Sometimes art criticism is more ridiculous than the art world itself. Frankly a lot of the interpretation I simply disagreed with. Soup cans as a comment on commercialism and mass production yes. But the author's obsession with Warhol's body seems overwraught for a book aimed at the general reader.
Eric Dutch
Koestenbaum leaves his best til last, and the final chapter leaves you with chills. The body of the text lacked the story telling hallmarks of a good bio, but hey, its not a movie script. I'm happy to have read up on Warhol still. He's done himself well to write up on such a big influence here, and it focuses more on the film side.
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i never knew much about Andy Warhol but I thought he was kind of ahead of his time and very edgy in his art. He mainly created portraits of the rich and the famous. He will have a lasting effect on the world of counterculture art.
Sara Habein
Apr 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book
Like other reviews have said, this has a lot more theory than your standard biography, and perhaps there are ones that are more thorough with the facts, but this is still a good introduction to Warhol's life and work.
Apr 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want a straight ahead biography of Warhol, then this probably isn't the best bet, but if you are looking for insight into Warhol as both a person and a personality (and some really great, almost poetic writing) then definitely check this out.
Ally McCulloch
Really didn't need to know about Andy Warhol's personal life to that degree. But there was lots of information that was great. I am an Andy Warhol fan and still learned something new.
Jun 28, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Felt like this was more of a critique and evaluation of Andy's works rather than a biography of his life.
Feb 12, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So bad its good. Yeah, definitely so bad its good.
Jun 23, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Warhol's life and works certainly spurred lots of analysis. And over-analysis. But this book left me wanting to read more. I wish I could explain why.
Jul 31, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wasnt a fan of this book at all. Found the writing boring! Im so uninspired I have no real idea of what else to say.
May 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Not a whole lot I didn't know about one of my favorite artists, but always nice to meet another fan.
I enjoyed the idea of it, and some of the language is really beautiful. But at times it's also too much, and I feel like he's reaching.
Casey Sommers
rated it liked it
Jan 18, 2013
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Wayne Koestenbaum has published five books of critical prose, including The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist; and three books of poetry, including Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems. He is a Professor of English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

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