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Deirdre Bair’s Saul Steinberg

Saul Steinberg: A Biography, by Deirdre Bair. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2012. 732 pages.

BIOGRAPHY IS A FORM OF INDENTURED SERVITUDE. The writer devotes years of his or her life worrying the details of someone else’s—a life deemed to be, in most instances, of greater import than the writer’s own. In the case of the biographical subject known as Saul Steinberg, the Romanian-born artist best known for his trenchantly philosophical drawings and covers for the New Yorker—among them View of the World from 9th Avenue, 1976, more commonly called “The New Yorker’s View of the World”—this is painfully so.

Deirdre Bair, the author of Saul Steinberg: A Biography, seems a sporting servant. She obviously enjoys writing biographies, and all her chosen subjects, including Simone de Beauvoir, Anaïs Nin, Carl Jung, and Samuel Beckett—Bair’s take on the latter garnered her a

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