Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz

Cynthia Carr     2012     615p     6 x 8

Wojnarowicz ran away from his abusive family and its repressive environment to New York City when he was very young (an adolescent or teenager). He turned tricks in Times Square, hung out with other runaways and drag queens, and embraced the bohemian element of 1960s NYC.

Over the years Wojnarowicz would become a poet, artist, photographer, new wave musician, spoken word performer, enemy of society, and HIV positive. Many of your foes you’ll find among Wojnarowicz’s: police, priests, politicians, the rich. Immersed in the AIDS epedimic of the 1980s, Wojnarowicz was slowly surrounded by one dying friend after another until his rage found a political outlet. Tragically, his death at the hands of the virus and an apathetic (if not celebratory) society followed a few years later. Wojnarowicz’s death marked–at his request–the first ‘political’ AIDS funeral. Actions like the dumping of ashes on the White House lawn were inspired Wojnarowicz’s life and writings.

As the title says, this book is equal parts biography of Wojnarowicz and description of the Lower East Side in the ’60, ’70s and ’80s: bombed out buildings, poetry, hard drugs, cruising, fucking, and hanging out at the peers, graffiti, art galleries, punk shows, etc.

Though Carr ran in the same circles and rekindled her friendship with Wojnarowicz as he lay dying, she certainly didn’t share all of his views and at times rebukes them (a fine line for any biographer to tread). Readers should likely familiarize themselves with Wojnarowicz’s work before reading this behemoth of a biography. As the only major work about Wojnarowicz and his work–other than his own writings which have some suspicious omissions–the biography is recommended with a grain of salt for anyone who’s found solace in Wojnarowicz’s work or a fire lit in their own bellies by it.

Wojnarowicz’s collection of political and biographical essays, Close to the Knives, is phenomenal.

WARNING: This book contains graphic accounts of sexual violence.

$5-15

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