Aug. 6, 2008

Andy Warhol for Familiar Quotations

by Peter Oresick

Andy Warhol said, Always leave them wanting less.
Being born, Warhol said, is like being kidnapped.
Everyone will be famous, Andy said, for 15 minutes.
I thought everyone was just kidding, said Andy.

Being born, Andy Warhol said, is like being kidnapped.
Think rich, said Warhol, look poor.
I thought everyone was just kidding, said Andy.
Dying, Andy said, is the most embarrassing thing.

Think rich, said Andy Warhol, look poor.
I am a deeply superficial man, said Warhol.
Dying, Andy said, is the most embarrassing thing.
Andy said, I'd like my tombstone to be blank.

I am a deeply superficial man, said Andy Warhol.
Fashions fade, Warhol said, but style is eternal.
Andy said, I'd like my tombstone to be blank.
Isn't life, said Andy, a series of images that repeat?

Fashions fade, Andy Warhol said, but style is eternal.
Everyone will be famous, Warhol said, for 15 minutes.
Isn't life, said Andy, a series of images that repeat?
Andy said, Always leave them wanting less.

Isn't life, said Andy, a series of images that repeat?
Isn't life, said Andy, a series of images that repeat?

Always leave them wanting less, Andy said.

"Andy Warhol for Familiar Quotations" by Peter Oresick from Warhol-O-Rama © Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the artist Andy Warhol, born Andrew Warhola, in Pennsylvania (1928). His father was a Czechoslovakian immigrant and a coal miner. His mother was extremely protective, and she let him spend all his time as a child drawing copies of Maybelline advertisements.

He got a job as an advertising illustrator in New York City in the 1950s, but he wanted to be a serious artist. One day, he got the idea to start painting pictures of advertisements, movie stars, and other popular images. He made silk-screened pictures of Campbell's soup cans and sculptures of Brillo boxes, and his style became known as Pop Art.

Though he was surrounded by hard-partying rock stars and artists, he lived with his mother, and he went to a Catholic church almost every Sunday. His friends said that he never took drugs and only drank occasionally.

It was on this day in 1965 that Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act that ended the long era of voter discrimination in many Southern states. Johnson had been delaying legislation on voting rights, because he thought it was too soon for it to succeed. But after a group of civil rights marchers were attacked in Selma, Alabama, he gave a speech on TV, in which he said: "I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote ... it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome."

That was the first time the president of the United States had ever used the phrase, "We shall overcome." Martin Luther King Jr. was watching the address on TV that night, and he later said that when he heard Lyndon Johnson say the words "we shall overcome," he burst into tears. The president signed the legislation a few months later, on this day in 1965.

It was on this day in 1945 that the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was the first time that a nuclear weapon was ever used in combat, and only the second time that a nuclear weapon had ever been exploded. The attack led to the end of World War II.

It's the birthday of the poet Alfred Tennyson, (books by this author) born in Lincolnshire, England (1809). Tennyson lived at a time when authors like Charles Dickens were turning the novel into the most popular form of literature, and he was one of the last poets who could sell as many books as a novelist. Nearly every literate household owned at least one copy of his poetry. He was also one of the last poets of an era when poets wrote for the spoken voice. In Tennyson's day, poetry was meant to be read aloud among groups of people, as a form of parlor entertainment, like karaoke. He was a friend of Queen Victoria, and he wrote public poems for England, including "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington" (1852) and "Charge of the Light Brigade" (1854), which became unofficial national anthems.

At the height of his career, he was one of the most famous men in England. He loved poetry so much that he wrote almost nothing else. Unlike other poets of his day, he never wrote a preface, an essay, a review, a diary, a memoir, or even a fragment of autobiography. He hated writing letters because they took time away from his real work.

Tennyson moved with his wife, Emily, to the Isle of Wight to a big, secluded house called Farringford. Emily loved that their clocks were not even synchronized with those of the rest of the world. Alfred took walks on the great chalk cliffs overlooking the sea, composing his poems to the rhythm of his own footsteps.

In 1864, he published Enoch Arden, which had the largest sales of any book during his lifetime. More than 40,000 copies sold on publication, and in the first year, it made Tennyson more than £8,000, as much as the income of many of the richest men in England. In London, Tennyson was followed in the streets by admirers, and the walls of his country estate were lined with tourists who sometimes even came up to the house and peered into the windows to watch the family eat their dinner.

At the age of 75, he was offered a lordship in honor of his poetry. It was the first time in history that any Englishman had ever been given a title for literary achievement alone. Tennyson said that he accepted the title on behalf of all literature. And that is why we now call him Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

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