The Art Gallery of Ontario is currently hosting an exhibit (which began at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London) devoted to David Bowie. In conjunction with the exhibit, the curators have released a very interesting list of Bowie’s “Top 100 Must Read Books.”
The curator “describes Bowie as ‘a voracious reader’ who is reputed to read as much as ‘a book a day.'” Bowie’s eclectic and quite excellent must-read list features names like George Orwell, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Tom Stoppard, Greil Marcus, Howard Zinn, Susan Jacoby, Junot Diaz, Camille Paglia, and James Baldwin. It’s interesting and fun to learn that Bowie is a fan of John Cage’s Silence and Arthur Danto’s art criticism, Don DeLillo’s White Noise, and Nabokov’s Lolita.
But it’s an extra-pleasant surprise to see that Bowie includes Frank O’Hara’s Selected Poems on this august list. O’Hara also seems to be the only poet on the list of 100 authors. (To make matters a bit more confusing, the article in the Independent features another, slightly different list which also includes Hart Crane, Eliot, and Dante. I can’t tell which list is the “real” list).
It’s not hard to see why O’Hara might be one of Bowie’s favorite poets, and I’d like to think O’Hara would’ve enjoyed the theatricality, the camp, and the brilliance of Ziggy Stardust, “Oh, You Pretty Things,” “Changes,” “Heroes,” and all the rest.