WHAT DID I DO? by Larry Rivers


The Unauthorized Autobiography
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 Showoff memoirs of an artist whose works stirred controversy during the Beat era and have been increasingly ignored ever since. Perhaps nostalgic for the days when he was regarded as the enfant terrible of painting, Rivers offers a reminiscence remarkable only for its tastelessness and lack of insight. Rivers recounts in numbing detail his sexual conquests (male and female), his halfhearted efforts to kick a heroin habit, and his self-proclaimed triumphs as a jazz hipster. He also discusses at length his problems with premature ejaculation and later with the adjustments necessary when his erect penis begins to look ``like a J-shaped sausage''--the result of a rare case of Peyronie's Syndrome. Meanwhile, Rivers's attitude toward women is porcine at best, and one of the unexplained mysteries here is just what his assorted wives and lovers seemingly found irresistible in his posturings. Many pages are devoted to Rivers's longtime relationship with Frank O'Hara, the early gay poet and ringmaster of the New York Abstract Expressionist circus. Here, the author displays a depth of feeling largely missing elsewhere. During a kind of summing-up, Rivers comes close to championing the proposition that women who have been raped probably were ``asking for it,'' though he is sensitive enough to admit ``that no one should be screwed against their will.'' Such aperáus aside, those interested in clues to Rivers's creative processes will be disappointed. From the evidence here, he seems to have had little, if any, cohesive artistic purpose. The kind of personal account that gives chutzpah a bad name. (Sixteen pages of color photographs--not seen; b&w illustrations throughout.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-06-019007-8
Page count: 500pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1992


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