Unvarnished lens looking at a troubled man’s life—there’s little to nothing like it out there.

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The raw, sinewy memoir of a wild mind at work.

It can be a tough task reviewing someone’s personal diary that they’ve released commercially. This book, for instance, offers no real context up front other than the title. Pfundt only reveals his name randomly in the text, which is made up of photocopied pages from a handwritten journal featuring hand-drawn illustrations. It does not appear to be edited for publication. Inky black drawings feature people, crosses, and, in some cases, just scribbles. “Long Live the Spiral,” one page screams, while another just repeats, “I want to die.” Large sections are blacked-out, words the author has evidently decided against. Sometimes it seems the pages have been partially burned; in one case, it is explained that several smudges were made with the author’s blood. Pfundt starts by talking about how he learned something new about himself: he was trying to be someone else. “Why can I not just be me?” he asks. Readers are privy to the author’s direct, personal thoughts as he recalls trying to become a filmmaker and a video game designer while dealing with sex and love, grappling with his feelings for his family, discussing philosophy, and trying to chase away depression. Words are often misspelled. Drawings are usually fairly primitive. It has the earnest, childlike feel of Daniel Johnston’s work, but anyone who thinks this might be a tongue-in-cheek sendup of artists will be disappointed. It rambles, it’s beautiful and harrowing at turns, but there’s no real narrative cohesion, and it’s unclear to whom the book is directed. Then again, the author notes at one point that life doesn’t necessarily have clear goals, other than staying alive, and his prose follows that philosophy. These are the inner workings of a mind struggling to stay alive and figure out what it’s supposed to be doing. As the author admits, this intensely personal, nontraditional work could appeal most to kindred spirits who might take comfort in and appreciate unfiltered thoughts.

Unvarnished lens looking at a troubled man’s life—there’s little to nothing like it out there.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1502780812

Page Count: 364

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.



Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.


An epic cradle-to-grave biography of the king of pop art from Gopnik (co-author: Warhol Women, 2019), who served as chief art critic for the Washington Post and the art and design critic for Newsweek.

With a hoarder’s zeal, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) collected objects he liked until shopping bags filled entire rooms of his New York town house. Rising to equal that, Gopnik’s dictionary-sized biography has more than 7,000 endnotes in its e-book edition and drew on some 100,000 documents, including datebooks, tax returns, and letters to lovers and dealers. With the cooperation of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the author serves up fresh details about almost every aspect of Warhol’s life in an immensely enjoyable book that blends snappy writing with careful exegeses of the artist’s influences and techniques. Warhol exploded into view in his mid-40s with his pop art paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans and silkscreens of Elvis and Marilyn. However, fame didn’t banish lifelong anxieties heightened by an assassination attempt that left him so fearful he bought bulletproof eyeglasses. After the pop successes, Gopnik writes, Warhol’s life was shaped by a consuming desire “to climb back onto that cutting edge,” which led him to make experimental films, launch Interview magazine, and promote the Velvet Underground. At the same time, Warhol yearned “for fine, old-fashioned love and coupledom,” a desire thwarted by his shyness and his awkward stance toward his sexuality—“almost but never quite out,” as Gopnik puts it. Although insightful in its interpretations of Warhol’s art, this biography is sure to make waves with its easily challenged claims that Warhol revealed himself early on “as a true rival of all the greats who had come before” and that he and Picasso may now occupy “the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt and their fellow geniuses.” Any controversy will certainly befit a lodestar of 20th-century art who believed that “you weren’t doing much of anything as an artist if you weren’t questioning the most fundamental tenets of what art is and what artists can do.”

A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229839-3

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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