'Stephen Lee Naish offers a meticulous and passionate study of Dennis Hopper's astonishing output, which frequently broke with conventions. Naish shows Hopper as a man who considered himself a 'social critic', but one who could never escape his most indelible creation. Naish writes with great clarity and sense, bringing to life this towering figure of Hollywood legend.' - Matthew Alford, Author, Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy
'The fact that Dennis Hopper was more than a movie star is no secret. This collection of essays brings a fresh set of perspectives to bear on the products of Hopper's creativity. By considering different aspects, across culture, across media, across decades, Naish illustrates that there is substantially more to Hopper's cultural significance than can be discerned from just the work for which he is best remembered.' - Dr. Matthew Winston, author of Gonzo Text: Disentangling Meaning in Hunter S. Thompson's Journalism
'Engaging and insightful, Create or Die examines the multifaceted genius of Dennis Hopper - political enthusiast, accomplished photographer, and groundbreaking director and actor. A must-read for anyone interested in this iconic American cultural figure.' - Paul Alexander, author of Being James Dean and Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life Times, and Legend of James Dean
Growing up in the 1980s, I first encountered Dennis Hopper in the same role that transfixed Stephen Lee Naish: Hopper's astonishing portrayal of Frank Booth in Blue Velvet, which seems more like a possession than a performance. Naish's set of critical essays do Hopper a great service. They show how deeply embedded Hopper was in postwar American culture: as an actor and as a still-underrated director (and a pioneer of modern soundtracking), as a photographer, a writer, and even as the subversive star of a set of advertisements. Hopefully this book will bolster the reputation of someone who often was written off during his lifetime as something of a countercultural jester. In truth, Hopper was a gifted American artist who existed, as Naish writes, "often in a constant state of self-referral." Chris O'Leary, author of Rebel Rebel: All the Songs of David Bowie from '64 to '76
'This painstakingly researched monograph is a welcome addition to the growing body of critical work on Dennis Hopper. Sharp in detail and perceptive on the popular cultural context, Naish strikes a judicial balance between loving portrait and his keen awareness that, above all, it is personal weaknesses and failings that have driven the phenomenon that is Hopper - an actor unable to play anyone other than himself; an artist, obsessive, as all great artists are. Naish's study comes closer than any other to understanding this phenomenon.' - Dr Alexander Graf, Senior Lecturer School of Film, Photography & Digital Media, University of South Wales, author The Cinema of Wim Wenders: The Celluloid Highway.
'I love a good essay about a misinterpreted creator. Here we get eight! Like many actors of his breadth, Dennis Hopper's public identity was invented by the number of intense characters he played, but Hopper was much more than Frank Booth. In fact, as Steve Naish tells us through a series of academic essays, Hopper was influential in everything from photography to hip-hop. This is for those who want to see what was under the oxygen mask.' - Lindsay Gibb, author of National Treasure: Nicolas Cage
'Blending critical distance with personal account of Hopper’s influence on him, Naish’s book is a page-turner printed by a university press ...' - Roy Christopher's Summer Reading List, 2016
Dennis Hopper (1936-2010) was one of most charismatic and protean figures to emerge from the American independent film movement of the 1960s and '70s, an incredibly compelling screen presence who helped give cult classics like Easy Rider and Blue Velvet their off-kilter appeal. But his artistic interests went far beyond acting, and this collection of essays is the first major work to take in Hopper as a creative artist in all his fields of endeavour, from acting and directing to photography, sculpture, and expressionist painting. Stephen Naish doesn't skimp on covering Hopper's best-known work, but he breaks new ground in putting it in context with his other creative enterprises, showing how one medium informs another, and how they offer a portrait of an artist who was restless, even flawed at times, but always aiming to live up to his motto: create or die.
Stephen Lee Naish's writing explores film, politics, and popular culture and the places where they converge. His essays have appeared in numerous journals and periodicals, including the arts and culture magazines The Quietus, 3am Magazine, Empty Mirror, Gadfly, Everyday Analysis and Scholardarity. He is the author of the essay collectionU.ESS.AY: Politics and Humanity in American Film (Zer0 Books) and Create or Die: Essays on the Artistry of Dennis Hopper (Amsterdam University Press). He lives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada with his wife Jamie and their son Hayden.