Wilfrid Sheed (1915–2011) was a British-American novelist and critic.

Portrait of the Artist as a Self-Made Man

Last year’s quiet winner in the crowded category of shock biography might just possibly be Martin Stannard’s Evelyn Waugh: The Later Years. Scurvy allegations against the Kennedy family may still be fun, the way Benny Hill reruns are fun, but they are not news; good deeds by Evelyn Waugh, on …

Armageddon Now?

If Norman Mailer’s own character Harlot were reviewing this book—and what better occupation for a retired superspy with the most devious mind in the West?—he would probably deduce by way of background that the author has spent a suspicious amount of time preparing us to expect the worst of this …

Outside Baseball

It could be a coincidence, but as each of our major wars winds down we seem to become more and more mesmerized by baseball, and the cold war so far has proved no exception. To a nervous system set on high, peace can be an awful anticlimax; suddenly a section …

The Exile

Sad things can happen when an author chooses the wrong subject: first the author suffers, then the reader, and finally the publisher, all together in a tiny whirlpool of pain. Ian Hamilton’s book, In Search of J.D. Salinger, seems to have set in dolorous motion all of the above. The …

A Farewell to Hemingstein

Hemingway by now is like some old man who’s been sitting at the end of the bar for years. A fellow comes in and says, “Hey, that guy seems awfully tough; do you think he’s just showing off?” Yes, both. “I mean people who brag that much often turn out …

Reds

“Hollywood,” wrote Johnny Mercer, is the place “where you’re terrific if you’re even good.” But you don’t have to go to Hollywood to attain this pleasant, vaguely humiliating condition; sportswriting will do. Selected sportswriters get canonized by the faithful in every major city, and a precious few become national cults, …

No Need for Names

Cyril Connolly once observed that even P.G. Wodehouse might have profited from being told which of his books was better than which. But nobody wants to review a humorist. Such notices as the funnymen get are generally either facetious, because the reviewer dreads seeming pompous, or vaguely eulogistic. “Another whatnot …

Brass Bands and Raspberries

They used, I am told, to have a phrase over at Life magazine known as “winning the lunch.” Life was a very lunchy outfit, to judge from the number of Henry Luce anecdotes that seem to feature that meal, and Life reporter Theodore White’s In Search of History can be …

The Defector’s Secrets

George Orwell called the novel a protestant art form: and in so far as protestant means simply breaking away and declaring oneself, this is obviously so. The novel is a supremely handy kind of declaration to nail on a nursery door, a parent’s tombstone, a crucifix, on anything that has …

Desperate Character

The collapse of Hemingway’s reputation was in the wind well before he died. His serious admirers had retreated by then to defending the early short stories and parts of The Sun Also Rises and snippets of A Farewell to Arms, and retreat usually leads to rout in these matters: the …

Milking the Elk

“In what sense does the US lead the world in movies? We make more of them than any other country and are I suppose more proficient technically, but have we ever turned out anything that was comparable artistically to the best German or Russian films?…The idea of establishing and exploiting …

Toward the Black Pussy Cafe

Of all the subjects that don’t need de-mythologizing, one would have thought W.C. Fields was pre-eminent. With comedians in general it seems important that their life and their work be taken as one. “I hear he writes his own lines” is a phrase that echoes from childhood. The lot of …

America’s Catholics

The decline of the American Catholic Church in the late Sixties has become a statistician’s plaything, as the empty pew is weighted against the growth of Real Concern. Thus: the sprawling seminaries of the Fifties may be ghost towns—but we are all priests now. Likewise, the swollen churches can’t meet …

Everybody’s Mafia

As with God in the late Middle Ages, all that there is to know about the Mafia seems to be known by now except whether it actually exists. Among recent exegetes, Professor Joseph Albini finds the evidence so conflicting that no single Mafia can be deduced. Like a street-corner rationalist …

I Am a Cabaret

If they keep doing versions of Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, some day they’re going to get it right. The saga of Herr Issyvoo and Sally Bowles has turned up by now in every form but roller-skating ballet, for all the world as though it were one of the sturdy myths …

Chesterbelloc and the Jews

Every good name dropper has a vested interest in how his names are doing, their current exchange value, and the likely quotation when memoir time comes around. My own best coins, Chesterton and Belloc, have, alas, devalued steadily. Strictly speaking, I didn’t see that much of either of them in …

All-American

James Agee was so much the American idea of a writer—wild, lunging, unfulfilled; boozy, self-destructive, sufficiently Southern; a refined model from the Thomas Wolfe prototype—that we still keep sniffing around his literary remains for the one work that would clinch it, the missing sonnet. It will not be found in …