Sunday November 25, 2012

Deirdre Bair, the author of well-regarded books about Samuel Beckett, Carl Jung and Simone de Beauvoir, has taken stock of a wildly inventive and original artist in a 600-page volume, "Saul Steinberg: A Biography," that marks the first comprehensive biography of Stein berg since he died in 1999 at age 84.

Steinberg was happy to call himself a writer who draws. An architect by training, he delighted in drawing fantastic buildings and cityscapes, including his iconic "View of the World From Ninth Avenue," the New Yorker cover endlessly parodied since it was published in 1976.

Steinberg never lost his off-kilter, intentionally childlike and absurdist view of the world. He peopled his imaginary worlds with animated letters, numbers and punctuation marks; with battle-ax women patterned on his domineering mother; and with a profusion of animals and objects which resonated with a wide swath of the public.

Readers learn that Steinberg was a man of insatiable appetites: for women, books, objects and travel.

Bair gets bogged down at times in the details, but overall she has done an excellent job of trying to answer where the artist’s ideas came from.

-- Associated Press