Book of the Week: Smash Cut – Brad Gooch

Gooch has written both fiction and nonfiction. He is perhaps best known as a biographer, and is the author of the NBCC Award-finalist, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor as well as the fabulous, City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O’Hara. That biography might have given us a hint of the kind romance, drama and, yes, poetry he would bring to his own life story. Smash Cut is an evocative, lovingly recalled memoir of his young life and relationship with the filmmaker Howard Brookner. If you miss the time you spent at the Chelsea Hotel with Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe in Just Kids, Gooch’s memoir paints another picture of that fertile, dangerous period in bohemian New York.

The book has photographs throughout. Media starts with a profile of Gooch in the Style section of the NYT and a sidebar feature in the April issue of Vanity Fair.

In this revealing memoir, Gooch reanimates the wild gay subculture in Manhattan during the 1970s and 1980s, which he calls the ‘golden age of promiscuity,’ when ‘everything was sex and poetry and La Bohème for suburban American kids arriving to create their identities, and do drugs, and get laid.’ The fine book contains many entertaining cameos by Andy Warhol,…William Burroughs, whose windowless and soundproofed residence, named the Bunker, was a meeting place for drug-fueled parties and dinners akin to ‘board meeting[s] out of A Clockwork Orange’…. [T]he bulk of the narrative revolves around Gooch’s decade-long relationship with Brookner, a filmmaker. Citing letters and journals, the writer touchingly reconstructs Gooch’s loving and tumultuous life with Brookner, from their first date in 1978, to the summer they spent in an abandoned cottage on Fire Island, to their struggles with Brookner’s heroin addiction and Gooch’s resistance to monogamy, and finally Brookner’s death at the age of 34. This worthwhile account is a poetic meditation on an exceptional relationship and a stirring moment in New York’s cultural history.”
— Publishers Weekly

“Engrossing, intimate. . . . This candid memoir lovingly evokes a life, and a world, lost.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“That Gooch is a splendid writer will not be left in doubt for anyone who delves into his new memoir. . . . Literary memoirs abound; this one excels in beautiful honesty.”
— Booklist (starred review)

“A gorgeous memoir of his and Howard’s romance, played out in New York City, on Fire Island, and in Paris and Rome, among the era’s boldfaced names, such as Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe-a potent mix of love, art, and death.”
— Vanity Fair

Smash Cut manages to be both the fascinating history of a pivotal era and an intensely personal love story….Gooch paints a vivid picture of how the carefree years of sex and drugs (and art and literature and film) were eclipsed by the shadow of AIDS in the 1980s as the downtown community of creative artists was decimated by the disease. Smash Cut is a powerful and compelling read.”
—  Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI

Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s & the ’80s (9780062354952) by Brad Gooch. $27.99 hardcover. 4/14/15 on sale.


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