Madge disciple Mel Ottenberg calls up Mary Gabriel, esteemed biographer and the author of Madonna: A Rebel Life, a new 800-page tome on the queen of pop, to talk album art, tabloid drama, and the revolutionary power of Sex.


MARY GABRIEL: Hi, Mel. How are you?

MEL OTTENBERG: I’m great and psyched to talk to you. So Mary, why Madonna?

GABRIEL: Well, my last book was about five women artists. When I left that story, I was excited about how women artists change society, as all art does. So I wanted to continue writing about them, but I thought if I wrote about visual artists again, I’d just repeat myself. I wasn’t a Madonna fan, I was a journalist. I knew about her, of course, it’s impossible not to have known about her. And people I worked with, women I really respected who worked on battlefields as foreign correspondents, liked Madonna and went to her concerts, so I took note. Also, the artists I wrote about were active during the cusp of the social, sexual, and cultural revolution that lasted from the ’60s until the early 2000s, when it started to turn sour. And Madonna’s work and life embodies that period.

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