If caricaturist Sorel's goal with this series of short, illustrated biographies is to deflate the bloated personas of Proust, Sartre, Tolstoy and seven other of prominent literary figures, he has surely succeeded. Sorel, whose work appears in the New Yorker, the Atlantic and Vanity Fair, among others, sweeps through the portraits by focusing most of his attention on embarrassing foibles. There's a great deal to laugh at in his satirical take on this sexually promiscuous group of bombastic literati, such as the indelible images of an aging Ayn Rand enveloping her young male protege, W.B. Yeats proposing repeatedly to the same woman for 25 years, or Norman Mailer plunging an ice pick into his wife at the 1960 announcement of his New York mayoral candidacy. As if Sorel's squiggly caricatures of wide-eyed figures prone to frequent fits of rage and grandeur aren't enough to cut his subjects down to size, his short lines of text further puncture with wrath. (""Still in pursuit of true Christianity, Tolstoy decides to give away his wealth by making his novels free of copyright. His wife is less than supportive"" and ""Yeats edits 'The Oxford Book of Modern Verse.' It includes three poems by Ezra Pound, three by W.H. Auden, and seven by a 29-year-old actress named Margot Ruddock, his current mistress."") The scathing effect of this quick read is best described in an introduction from E.L. Doctorow: ""never have authors of such magnitude been so casually eviscerated.""
Reviewed on: 04/03/2006 Release date: 04/01/2006 Genre: Nonfiction
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