The Shadow in the Garden: James Atlas with Stacy Schiff
Where: McNally Jackson
52 Prince St.
212-274-1160 Price: Free
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The biographer, so often in the shadows, kibitzing, casting doubt, proving facts, comes to the stage in this funny, poignant, endearing tale of how writers’ live get documented. James Atlas, the celebrated chronicler of Saul Bellow and Delmore Schwartz, takes us back to his own childhood in suburban Chicago, where he fell in love with literature and, early on, found in himself the impulse to study writers’ lives. We meet Richard Ellmann, the great biographer of James Joyce and Atlas’s professor during a transformative year at Oxford. We get to know Atlas’s first subject, the “self-doomed” poet Delmore Schwartz. And we are introduced to a bygone cast of intellectuals such as Edmund Wilson and Dwight Macdonald (the “tall pines,” as Mary McCarthy once called them, cut down now, according to Atlas, by the “merciless pruning of mortality”) and, of course, the elusive Bellow, “a metaphysician of the ordinary.”