Review: Bair writes bio of artist Saul Steinberg

Associated Press Published: November 20, 2012
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Even as a penniless Jewish refugee awaiting permission to enter the U.S. at the start of World War II, Steinberg found success selling his offbeat cartoons to the New Yorker. Once he was finally settled in New York, nothing could stop his rapid rise to the pinnacle of the art world, not even his hypochondria, anxiety and lifelong depression.

In "Saul Steinberg: A Biography," 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 — the endless parties and dinners with art world celebrities; the haggling over commissions and negotiations with publishers; his apartment and studio renovations; and the bitter fights with his lovers. But overall she has done an excellent job of trying to answer the question that perplexed even Steinberg's ex-wife and lifelong friend Hedda Sterne when she considered his work: "Where did this come from?"

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