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Near Fine in Good jacket. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, (2003). First edition. Hardcover. Dust jacket. A razor cut mark across the spine of the jacket and book, otherwise a fine copy. 305 pages. ISBN: 0374139806. An affectionate memoir by a close friend. Information about John Ashbery, Joan Mitchell, John Button, James Schuyler, Elaine de Kooning and others. Black and white photographs.
Frank O'Hara and Joe LeSueur lived together for nine and a half years, from the summer of 1955 until January 1965. These were the years when O'Hara wrote his greatest poems, and, since they tended to be autobiographic, LeSueur has, in this book, tried to explore and evoke old memories of his and Frank's life together, often going off on wild tangents (hence the 'Digressions' in the title). This volume is a literary commentary, and also an affectionate, no-holds-barred memoir of O'Hara and the New York that animated his work. It includes many of O'Hara's best loved poems in their entirety, followed by personal notes from Joe. His rambling, deeply personal, and stream-of-consciousness style effortlessly conjures the carefree and hedonistic urban life that he shared with Frank, and will enchant most O'Hara groupies. However, readers expecting a more academic and precise treatment should probably look elsewhere.
Publishers Weekly, 2003-02-24 LeSueur shared four New York apartments (and dozens of famous friends) with the poet Frank O'Hara during the last 10 years of the poet's life. Because O'Hara moved in the now-legendary New York art world of the 1950s, and because his poems constantly bring up friends, acquaintances, lovers and social events, O'Hara's readers usually welcome knowledge of his life and times. Admirers, disciples and critics of the charismatic and increasingly influential O'Hara (1925-1965) will thus line up to read this informative and surprisingly readable memoir from the screenwriter and editor LeSueur, who completed the volume just before his own death in 2001. LeSueur's memoir offers plenty of firsthand knowledge-both facts and anecdotes-nobody else has put in print; it does so, moreover, in an entertaining format, organized (after an autobiographical preface) in 40 short (three to 10 pages) bursts of storytelling, each pegged to a particular O'Hara poem or part thereof. This unusual format arranges LeSueur's copious anecdotes into assimilable chunks, and links facts about the life to the poems they best explain. Readers can learn, among many other tidbits, when (and why) O'Hara stopped "making out with strangers," how he came to write his famed Billie Holiday elegy and how he rescued a drowning boy off Fire Island. LeSueur tells memorable stories not just about O'Hara, but about almost all the eminent poets, composers and painters of '50s New York-Ashbery, Auden, Koch, Schuyler; Rauschenberg, Johns, Kline; Morton Feldman ("Morty") and Gian Carlo Menotti-whose lives intersected with his own. Sometimes chatty, sometimes incisive and sometimes not so sweet, this book should supplant Brad Gooch's O'Hara bio City Poet (widely seen as a clip job) as info-hungry readers' first stop. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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