Saturday, April 21, 2012

Holy shit...

"The Anatomy of Harpo Marx is a luxuriant, detailed play-by-play account of Harpo Marx's physical movements as captured on screen. Wayne Koestenbaum guides us through the thirteen Marx Brothers films, from The Cocoanuts in 1929 to Love Happy in 1950, to focus on Harpo's chief and yet heretofore unexplored attribute--his profound and contradictory corporeality. Koestenbaum celebrates the astonishing range of Harpo's body--its kinks, sexual multiplicities, somnolence, Jewishness, "cute" pathos, and more. In a virtuosic performance, Koestenbaum's text moves gracefully from insightful analysis to cultural critique to autobiographical musing, and provides Harpo with a host of odd bedfellows, including Walter Benjamin and Barbra Streisand."
(- blurb)

"Wayne Koestenbaum is our Roland Barthes, updated, remastered, cleared for the pressure zone of American mythologies. Delicate and brave, discerning and outrageous, the meditations organized around the other Marx track unconscious byways and the remarkable turns of a highly personal investment. Startlingly original, Koestenbaum provides critical understanding with poetic acuity and breathtaking disclosure."
( - Avital Ronell, author of The Test Drive)


LAGuy said...

Believe it or not, I just read this book. It's pretty much what you'd expect from the reviews you quote.

Koestenbuam is an academic who became enraptured with Harpo only recently and decided to create a blow-by-blow account of his film work (though not precisely in chronological order), not as a description of Harpo's comedy, but more as a meditation on his character.

It's written in academic language (or some might think a parody of academic language) and includes numerous, helpful photographs. It's an oddity among Marx Brothers books. It's not easy to read from cover to cover but perhaps Marx Brothers fans might enjoy it as something to dip into here and there.

Matthew Coniam said...

A friend has forwarded me some hilarious Lacanian analysis of the Marxes which I will be sharing with you all next...
I like your use of the phrase "helpful photographs"!

WGaryW said...

I cannot believe I haven't commented on this yet.

This book is an atrocity, a crime against humanity. The author should be put before an international tribunal. This is not just the worst book ever on the Marx Brothers, it may be the single most worst book I've ever read. And I can prove it.

I'm going to do a little experiment here. . . the random page test. You'll have to take my word for it, but I swear an oath, I will now randomly pick a page from this book and quote the first few sentences I find.

"Dream: my father, in a surprise appearance, whisked me away to the Metropolitan Opera matinee. I had one or two tickets. I didn't understand the difference between one and two: numbers are philosophical problems. We entered a dark storage room, where our bodies pressed together: reciprocal hardness. The incest taboo didn't cow me. The Marx Brothers seem sexually embroiled even when they ignore each other."

The above paragraph is about (of course), "Go West".

And I'm dead serious, this is a completely random paragraph on a completely random page. It's not a surprise: every single page-- every SINGLE PAGE-- has something intellectually or sexually offensive on it. If ever a book screamed out for the response "Too Much Information", this is it. Unless you're looking for a ponderous, pseudo post-modern, largely indecipherable exploration of Kostenbaum's life long lust for Harpo (and for his own family members.)

Anonymous said...


Like when Paul McCartney was asked about his choice of dorian or phrygian modes in the early Beatles melodies. He just stared at the guy and said he wrote melodies that sounded good.

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