IN THE SHADOW OF THE AMERICAN DREAM: The Diaries of David Wojnarowicz by David Wojnarowicz

IN THE SHADOW OF THE AMERICAN DREAM: The Diaries of David Wojnarowicz

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A harrowing journal of lust, creativity, and privation by the painter, photographer, and performance artist who died in 1992 at the age of 37. Wojnarowicz lived by night. From the time he first arrived in New York--shipped by a father who no longer wanted to care for him to a mother who didn't know him--he took refuge in the night. By the age of 12, he'd discovered that his body could be traded for cash and so joined the rank and file of suicidally depressed teenage hustlers in Times Square--living on the street, taking drugs, and ricocheting from one john to the next. And yet, in spite of it all, Wojnarowicz had something that his peers did not: a will of tempered steel and a vision of himself as an artist. The wonder of these journals--the wonder, perhaps, of Wojnarowicz's life--is that he wrote and drew his way out of despair. Once he began keeping a journal, he never stopped; by the time he died of AIDS, he had filled some 30 books. Scholder, founding editor of Artspace Books and of High Risk Books/Serpent's Tail, has edited these so as to maximize the sense of Wojnarowicz's forward momentum, but the transitions are still rough. Fortunately, the artist's own sensibility makes even the most harrowing passages interesting, but the journals suffer for a lack of detailed information about the development of Wojnarowicz's professional, artistic life. To some extent, however, the hard-hewn quality of his prose reflects his lived reality. For even before he knew he was HIV-positive, his life had a driven desperation: ""If I turned from twenty-three to eighty in the simple sway from window to bed,"" he wrote, ""what lives would remain in my heart, what answers to the questions of solitude and movement?."" In its rough, raw vitality, his diary still gives testament to the lives that remained in his heart and the inspiration he quite literally drew from them.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Grove