An authorized, entirely sympathetic account of the wildly popular humorist poet who composed as facilely for the New Yorker as for Hollywood and Hallmark Cards.
In his day (1902–71), Nash was America’s most prominent purveyor of snappy rhyming verse. Enjoying a fairly privileged childhood in Rye, N.Y., and in Savannah, Ga., where his father ran a prosperous business, he attended private school and then Harvard for a year, dropping out to make his way to New York. He worked at various publishing houses during the Depression, and his poems began to appear regularly in the Saturday Evening Post. His long association with the New Yorker began under Harold Ross and continued until his [Nash’s] death; “the restorative Nashian couplet or clarifying stanza” (as Roger Angell described it) attracted just the sort of readership the magazine wanted. Still, Nash struggled to make a living, keep wife Frances in comfort, and raise two daughters, both of whom became talented writer/illustrators. He worked briefly in Hollywood as a screenwriter (without credit) on The Wizard of Oz, and he had some success as a Broadway lyricist, most notably for Kurt Weill’s One Touch of Venus in 1942. But exhausting reading circuits were more lucrative, though they ruined his health. The tireless Nash also wrote children’s books and made frequent appearances on such TV shows as Masquerade Party. Retired lawyer and neophyte biographer Parker’s cheery work presents Nash’s life as straightforward and blameless—much like his poetry, which gently satirizes family issues, politics, and human foibles. But the author’s lack of training in literary history means that his account somewhat scants the ideas and currents that buoyed Nash. Perhaps, in the end, a light poet doesn’t lend himself to psychoanalysis. The ample quotations from Nash’s poetry are certainly a pleasure.
Proficiently recognizes and restores an important American voice.