Friday, March 26, 2010


What not to talk about

I was looking at some of my old posts recently, and realized I've just got to resist the urge to talk about the weather. Boring stuff! Who cares! Note to self: do not talk about the weather, or food, or life complaints. Unless book-related. Or art-related. (For example, I like to paint food. And read about it.) Everyone eats, everyone experiences the weather, everyone has troubles. We all know this. We don't need to talk about it all the time. In fact, it can be a relief not to.

So instead of mentioning the snow on the ground this morning - oop - I will say instead that I would be writing a lovely review of this great new book-about-books sitting on top of the to-be-read pile on my bedside table, except I haven't read it yet. It looks amazing. But I can't pick it up and start reading it because I can't seem to put down The Andy Warhol Diaries (Warner 1989). I can't seem to finish them, either - what a massive book - 800+ pages of densely-packed social gossip that gets better and better the longer I read. I found my copy again in the boxes I sorted out earlier in the week. I read this book when it was published, but haven't since then, and what I don't remember the first time around was the déjà vu I'm experiencing as I go along. The events he mentions happening are things I remember happening. I'm up to 1983 in the book, when I was a teenager. He was in his 50s by then, and was an active participant in a particular social arena, one involving bucketloads of money and power. And, like a Forrest Gump-type observer, he saw a lot of important world events unfold before him. All that is interspersed with candid gossip about movies and tv and artists and celebrities and society folk. And sex and drugs and rock and roll. Which makes interesting reading, but what really gets me and keeps me turning pages into the night is all the other stuff, the personal things. He's alone and weeping on Easter, and again on Christmas. He's working on Thanksgiving. His skin is always broken out. He goes to church a lot. He's suffering from unrequited love. He's afraid his art is no good any more. He's worried about his health. He's worried about his reputation. He gets a death threat. I mean, I can't put it down - I'm not going to get anything else done until I finish this book!

I know I mentioned this vis-à-vis the Samuel Pepys Diary, but it bears repeating. I think the oddest thing about reading diaries, or any memoir in which we know the ending, is the sense that the writer does not know what we, the readers, know. Hindsight again. For me today, it's 1983 in this particular diary, page 481, and Andy Warhol doesn't know he will only live another four years. I remember the week he died - my freshman year of college. I worked in a dining hall and took home an empty industrial-size can of Campbell's Soup to keep my paintbrushes in. An arty friend of mine walked around clutching a copy of his Interview magazine. I think I still have my copy of the memorial issue, I can picture the cover photo of him. It's so strange to read a contemporary diary such as this, containing all the cultural references I understand, yet at the same time dishing the dirt (exquisitely) about a world I never knew. Very different than reading Pepys. Yet compelling to me for exactly the same reasons. I don't know where I'm going with this. I feel like I'm repeating myself, so I'll stop there.

This wasn't even what I intended to write about today. What I really wanted to mention (not the weather, not what I'm about to have for lunch, not my worries) was this website I've been reading lately, Five Books, "The best five books on everything," a subsidiary of The Browser news magazine. I really like their manatee logo. I love manatees. The interviews and articles are good, too.

I always get that feeling when reading diaries, its so strange that you know they ending and they don't, thanks for posting!
Hi Patty - I know, it's a decidedly eerie feeling. Thanks for commenting...
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