Cosmic Scholar : The Life and Times of Harry Smith


Sorry, this title is currently out of stock. If you would like a copy please contact

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc

Year: 2023

Format: Hardcover

Edition: First

Condition: New

He was an anthropologist, a filmmaker, a painter, a folklorist, a mystic, and a walking encyclopedia. He taught Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe about the occult, swapped drugs with Timothy Leary, jammed with Thelonious Monk, lived with Allen Ginsberg, and received one of the first Guggenheim grants. He was always broke, frequently intoxicated, compulsively irascible, and unimpeachably authentic.

Harry Smith was, in the words of Robert Frank, "the only person I met in my life that transcended everything."In Cosmic Scholar, the celebrated biographer John Szwed reconstructs, for the first time, the life of one of the twentieth century's most overlooked cultural figures. From his time recording the customs of Native American tribes to living in Greenwich Village in its heyday, Smith was consumed by an unceasing desire to create a unified theory of culture. He was an insatiable collector, responsible for the influential Anthology of American Folk Music and several pioneering experimental films, but he was also a destructive eccentric who was unable to survive in regular society or keep himself healthy or sober.

Exhaustively researched, energetically told, and complete with a trove of images, Cosmic Scholar is a feat of biographical restoration and the long-overdue deification of an American icon.