An intimate portrait of personal struggles and artistic triumphs.



A frank memoir reveals life, art, and death in 1980s New York.

Growing up in suburban Syracuse, McGough was shy, gay, and frequently bullied. In high school, he found refuge in the art room, peopled by “artists and outcasts” like himself, and he became recognized for his talent. After graduating in 1978, he headed eagerly to New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, hoping to find sexual freedom at last. In his candid debut memoir, the author vividly conveys the turbulence and seediness of the “dirty and dangerous” West Village and of Times Square, “a mess of dirty old theaters” showing horror movies and pornography. “It was everything I dreamed of and more,” he admits, and he spent his tuition money in nightclubs, including the infamous Studio 54, and on rent for squalid rooms. When his money ran out, he took odd jobs illustrating, sketching, and, at one point, painting Danceteria, a new nightclub, where he also worked as a busboy. McGough’s life changed when he met David McDermott, an eccentric, charismatic artist who rejected the modern world as “cheap and vulgar,” claimed he was a genius (and, sometimes, Jesus), and carefully curated environments for himself filled with Victoriana. McDermott’s world, McGough writes, “became immediately alluring, and I felt safe and cut off from a world I thought harsh and cruel.” Soon he, too, was wearing shirts with highly starched detachable collars, frock coats, and homburg hats: “We felt we were making a statement by our very existence.” The two became lovers and artistic collaborators, signing their works with both surnames and eventually gaining a reputation among dealers, collectors, curators (they showed twice at Whitney Biennales), and fellow artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Julian Schnabel. In a world filled with narcissists, grifters, and assorted lost souls, Schnabel and his wife, cleareyed and compassionate, stand out. Bitterness and anger sometimes surface as the author recounts betrayal, severe financial hardship brought about by McDermott’s wanton spending, and years of suffering from AIDS.

An intimate portrait of personal struggles and artistic triumphs.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4704-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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