"[Fire in the Belly is] unimprovable as a biography-thorough, measured, beautifully written, loving but not uncritical-as a concentrated history of his times, and as a memorial." -Luc Sante, Bookforum
David Wojnarowicz was an abused child, a teen runaway who barely finished high school, but he emerged as one of the most important voices of his generation. He found his tribe in New York's East Village, a neighborhood noted in the 1970s and '80s for drugs, blight, and a burgeoning art scene. His creativity spilled out in paintings, photographs, films, texts, installations, and in his life and its recounting-creating a sort of mythos around himself. His circle of East Village artists moved into the national spotlight just as the AIDS plague began its devastating advance, and as right-wing culture warriors reared their heads. As Wojnarowicz's reputation as an artist grew, so did his reputation as an agitator-because he dealt so openly with his homosexuality, so angrily with his circumstances as a Person With AIDS, and so fiercely with his would-be censors.
Fire in the Belly is the untold story of a polarizing figure at a pivotal moment in American culture-and one of the most highly acclaimed biographies of the year.
In this lucidly composed, skillfully contextualized first complete biography of David Wojnarowicz, former Village Voice reporter Carr (Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America) reveals how the controversial artist's life experience shaped his art and politics. Carr begins by describing Wojnarowicz's abusive, chaotic childhood, which couldn't be redeemed despite his intense love for drawing. Tracing his early life as a withdrawn, unstable student, sometime hustler, and store clerk in the troubled New York of the late 1960s and early '70s, Carr reveals the artist's struggle to express his emerging gay identity and the violent intensity of his family life. Meeting fellow artist Peter Hujar, who became his partner and artistic mentor, was a turning point in Wojnarowicz's life: " Everything I made, I made for Peter.'" Vividly detailing the East Village art scene and Wojnarowicz's place in it, Carr also depicts the personal and professional significance of his relationships with female artists like Kiki Smith, Judy Glantzman, and Karen Finley. The most powerful sections of this engrossing book give insight into the intersection between the culture wars of the early 1990s and Wojnarowicz's 1991 work, Tongues of Flame.