A NEW YORK LIFE: Of Friends and Others by Brendan Gill

A NEW YORK LIFE: Of Friends and Others

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Witty, chatty, stylish sketches and portraits of scenemakers mainly from New York's and Gill's midcentury heyday. Most of the several dozen pieces are original; and nearly all are long on schmoozability. Gill (Many Masks: A Life of Frank Lloyd Wright, 1987), staffer at The New Yorker since 1936, knows lots of people. More than 40 are portrayed here, seated around his typewriter like guests at a private dinner. Only Joseph Campbell is rudely treated at the banquet: Gill's now infamous New York Review of Books essay characterizing the scholar as racist and elitist seems in retrospect an accurate but somewhat shallow assault on a man who to Gill became famous despite a soft intellect. Others profiled more handsomely if not as deeply are William H. Whyte, Georges Simenon, Dorothy Parker, George Plimpton, Walker Evans, Brendan Behan, and Man Ray, brought to life by an anecdote of the artist collaborating with Cocteau on a photograph of Proust's still-warm corpse moments after his death. Gill fills out his portrait of Evans with afterthoughts on the photographer's supposed bisexuality; of Behan, with the usual tales of barroom exploits; and of Parker, with a description of her ""raspy little concierge of a dog"" who was her only roommate. Less luminous lights flitting past are public-relations man Ben Sonnenberg, Gill's great-aunt Emma Jane Bowen, the British sculptor Simon Verity, and a cast of dozens from Gill's seemingly endless social register. A cozy bedside read for Gill fans--with a revealing glimpse of how literary and intellectual circles are formed and then preserved for others.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1990
Publisher: Poseidon/Simon & Schuster