Irwin Shaw

Michael Shnayerson, Author Putnam Publishing Group $24.95 (447p) ISBN 978-0-399-13443-2
Although he aspired to Princeton, Irwin Gilbert Shamforoff (aka Shaw) had to settle for local Brooklyn College, where he seems to have enjoyed football more than his studies. From his mid-20s, however, Shaw (1913-1984) was a highly regarded New Yorker short story writer (``The Girls in Their Summer Dresses'') and left-wing playwright ( Bury the Dead ), and later became a successful Hollywood script writer and novelist ( The Young Lions ; Rich Man, Poor Man ). This sympathetic, objective biography, by a Vanity Fair contributing editor, convincingly shows how Shaw's career, character and fiction, influenced more by Hemingway's lifestyle than by his writing, were marked by incongruities. Far from abating with age, his romantic and alcoholic appetites overwhelmed him. Years of high living in Europe, surrounded by adoring friends, softened his self-judgment, and he took to writing ``fluffy essays for swells.'' The New Yorker dropped him, and ``serious'' critics panned his novels. Shnayerson capably contrasts Shaw's inclinations and personality with his subject matter and literary output, and is especially astute at explaining the complications of being a commercially successful midcentury American writer. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/1989
Release date: 00/00/0000
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