IRWIN SHAW: A Biography by Michael Shnayerson
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IRWIN SHAW: A Biography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Gripping first biography of poor, Brooklyn-born Irwin Shaw, who early was hailed as a leading playwright, short-story writer, and novelist, and who then spent his remaining decades living high and facing down a rep for selling out with big bucks for bad books. Shaw almost never wrote anything for hardcovers he thought of as strictly commercial. There simply were depths he could not reach and that he skated over on technique and craftsmanship. But his story makes clear that while Shaw never sold out he toweringly denied the alcoholism that robbed him of the core of health that would have given him a much more fulfilling shelf of rich works. (The good life--could that possibly require a partial sacrifice of his talent? No matter how hung over, Shaw punched out five to 25 pages a day on his Olivetti.) Shnayerson depicts the inflations of alcohol as honestly as he does the life of the artist. Ever gregarious, Shaw early became a compulsive womanizer with conquests past number, and he once passed off his lover Mary Welsh to Hemingway, who thereafter never failed to abuse Shaw for writing about this affair in The Young Lions. Yet when Shaw's wife Marian had an occasional lover he was shocked to the spine: no wife of his could be allowed a single standard. After their divorce, he teamed up with hard-drinking, salty ladies who could bear with him into the small hours of the night, but he later remarried Marian. Meanwhile, Shaw supported his grand continental style by being one of the world's highest-paid scriptwriters (Swifty Lazar was his agent), though few of his scripts came to much. tie kept a chalet in Switzerland, boozed in Paris and on Long Island with James Jones and William Styron, battled with Mailer, published a long invective against Time for its bad reviews of his works, Late in life he hit a colossal jackpot with CBS-TV making a miniseries of Rich alan, Poor Mall. Everybody loved his hospitality, big booming laugh, and good cheer, His ladies knew another side of him. Compelling and cautionary.

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1989
Publisher: Putnam