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.
"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
"The Anatomy of Harpo Marx is an effusive and provocative celebration of the potential of nonverbal communication, lying somewhere between poetry and criticism, history and diary, polemic and self-analysis. It is also funny, smart, often revelatory, and always sharp. It is, for all its analytical depth, a great read."--Michael Long, author of Beautiful Monsters: Imagining the Classic in Musical Media
"Behind that face and in Harpo's body, Wayne Koestenbaum finds more material than existed in New York's fabled garment district. Koestenbaum's work is compelling and surprising; his detailed explorations, gifts to readers wondering about what lies beneath our culture's surfaces. Read Wayne Koestenbaum for his exuberant embrace of the unrecognized or ignored; for his pleasure in explaining the inexplicable, and for his delight in deciphering Elizabeth Taylor's cleavage. Read him now for unveiling the most enigmatic of presences, Harpo Marx. --Lynne Tillman, author of American Genius, A Comedy
About the Author:
Wayne Koestenbaum is Distinguished Professor of Literature at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author of thirteen books of criticism, poetry, and fiction, including a biography of Andy Warhol, and the acclaimed The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire.