This is a really sensitive book. I’m glad I found a copy. I’d been looking for a while, having read it once from a library years ago. Anyway, Widow Basquiat is so good. It’s about the relationship between Jean-Michel Basquiat and his partner Suzanne Mallouk. Jennifer Clement is the writer. She’s a poet and friend of Mallouk’s from back then.
It’s an easy book to read because Clement write short, poetic stories on a page or two. Then sometimes those are followed by a few paragraphs or pages from Mallouk talking about the same moment. It’s like Mallouk talking through Clement, then also adding in her own voice too. I thought that was cool because yea there are unmentioned parts in the retelling. Like Clement writes Mallouk gets PID from Basquiat, which is a disease caused by STDs that makes it so a woman cannot have children. So that’s terrible. And near the end one of Mallouk’s sections finally adds that she never told him about it and that she’s happy he didn’t know because it would have hurt him so much. That seems very important.
It’s interesting because I just finished His Only Wife before this, and that was about a woman not accepting her husband staying with his baby’s mother even after their marriage. She divorces him with a level head and leaves his fancy life to live a fancy true life of her own. In Widow Basquiat, Mallouk accepts Basquiat’s infidelity as a part of who he is. She tried not to care but did. They both were toxic and on drugs and chasing after each other. But Mallouk is the main one, the first one that the guy wouldn’t leave alone. I think my favorite parts of the book were when Mallouk remembered how certain paintings were made. Like her attacking Madonna for being out somewhere with Basquiat–that turned into “A Panel of Experts.” She’s Venus. She’s the one.
Best line is Mallouk talking about Clement: “We talked about dark, intense, hungry things. We filled each other up. She comforted me. We held hands at night and walked the streets. We loved each other. We laughed like hyenas. She understood my love for Jean. She wrote poems about it. My love for Jean made her love me more” (141).