S. J. Perlman

Dorothy Herrmann, Author Putnam Publishing Group $18.95 (337p) ISBN 978-0-399-13154-7
In this well-researched but humdrum biography of the noted Brooklyn-born author (19041979)""he preferred to be thought of as a writer, not a humorist''we follow Perelman's experiences from a poor Jewish boyhood in Providence, R.I. and aspiring playwright in New York to screenwriting in Hollywood and eventual emergence as a revered cult figure. Word-play and parody, not self-revealing emotions, were the foundations of his humor and personality. Inhibited, egocentric, insecure, Perelman was a meticulous stylist, fastidious dresser and ceaseless womanizer, but he never learned to be a loving husband or a warm, nurturing father to his two children, shows Herrmann. When he was in the mood, he could be charming socially, but in business he tended to be tough, suspicious (``to the point of paranoia''), rude and high-handed. Herrmann (With Malice Toward All describes his relations with Groucho Marx, Bert Lahr, Dorothy Parker and other entertainers, but focuses on his long infatuation with Nathanael West, the brother-in-law whose early death had a devastating effect on him. Sid (as Herrmann prefers to refer to Perelman) was an intensely private man, and he remains a rather blurry figureand certainly not an attractive one. Photos not seen by PW. (August 25)
Reviewed on: 08/05/1986
Release date: 08/01/1986
Paperback - 337 pages - 978-0-671-64199-3
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