BRAMA, June 21, 2007, 1:00 am ET
New Novel about "Andrei" Warhol by Alexander Motyl
Alexander J. Motyl
6" x 9"
A new novel by Alexander J. Motyl, Who Killed Andrei Warhol: The American Diary of a Soviet Journalist, will be published by Seven Locks Press in mid-July.
Who Killed Andrei Warhol is an absurdist tragicomedy that imagines a friendship between pop artist Andy Warhol and a straight-laced Soviet Ukrainian journalist who arrives in New York at the height of the garbage strike in early 1968 to cover the impending American Revolution. The journalist, Sasha Ivanov, comes to reside at the Chelsea Hotel; he also has an office at the Communist Party USA headquarters, located in the same building as Warhol's "Factory" studio on Union Square. As Ivanov struggles to understand life in New York, he decides that his fellow Ukrainian worker, "Andrei" Warhol, is a socialist realist painter, a proletarian genius, and a passionate Leninist. In the process, Ivanov has an affair with Warhol's would-be assassin, Valerie Solanas, and gets implicated in intrigues involving the FBI, the KGB, the Communist Party, the Black Panthers, and the Students for a Democratic Society at Columbia University. The novel features cameo appearances by Communist Party leader Gus Hall, the FBI's Communist "mole" Morris Childs, and a range of Warhol's "superstars". Ivanov also visits Warhol's home and becomes a close friend of his mother, Julia Zawacka, who plies him with potato dumplings, vodka, and memories of the old country.
Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh into a working-class family of Rusyn-Ukrainian background. "This side of Warhol's life has remained completely unexplored," says Motyl. "It's as if living the first twenty years of one's life in an insular ethnic community that barely spoke English could not have affected one's later life and work. Ukrainians like me who grew up in New York's Lower East Side know that can't be true."
Motyl initially wanted to write a scholarly study of this side of Warhol's life. "But when, while doing research on Warhol, I discovered that his Factory was in the same building as the Communist Party USA, I knew I had stumbled upon a fact that was almost too good to be true. This coincidence just begged for some kind of literary exploration. Having Warhol meet a Ukrainian Communist, who would misinterpret him as a socialist realist, seemed like an obvious device for exploring questions of art and identity. After all, who decides what Warhol's art is--the New York art world or the Communist Party? And what's the difference?"
"The funny thing is that, as preposterous as it may seem to view Warhol as a socialist realist," continues Motyl, "it's no more preposterous than much of what passes for literary and artistic criticism today. In that sense, the novel is also a satire of contemporary postmodern thinking, which unintentionally manages to make sense of nonsense and nonsense of sense in ways that can only be termed hilarious."
New York City also figures prominently in the novel, as Ivanov explores the sights and sounds of a city that he, as an orthodox Marxist, cannot understand. "Sasha visits my New York--those parts of the city that I've known and now miss. Some of the novel is a walk down memory lane for me." Sasha gets mugged on Union Square, eats pizza in Chelsea, orders duck in Chinatown, and drinks vodka with bums on the Bowery. He even attends a rock concert at the Ukrainian National Home on Second Avenue.
Who Killed Andrei Warhol is Motyl's second novel. The first, Whiskey Priest, was published by iUniverse in 2005. Motyl is also author of six academic books and numerous articles.
A native New Yorker, Motyl is professor of political science and deputy director of the Division of Global Affairs at Rutgers University-Newark. He served as associate director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University in 1992-1998. Motyl is also a painter; he is represented by The Tori Collection, and his work is on display at www.toricollection.com.
Who Killed Andrei Warhol may be ordered directly from Seven Locks Press (www.sevenlockspublishing.com) as well as from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
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