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Evanier, David

PERSONAL:

Married. Education: Attended Cherry Lawn School, Darien, CT.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, educator, novelist, and short-story writer. University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), creative writing instructor; Douglas College, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, creative writing instructor. Screenwriting Fellowship, 1992-93, Chesterfield Film Company (Universal-Amblin). The Writers Community, writer-in-residence.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Aga Khan Fiction Prize; McGinniss-Ritchie Short Fiction Award; MacDowell Colony Fellowship (five times); Yaddo Foundation Fellowship Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship.

WRITINGS:

(Coeditor) The Nonconformers: Articles of Dissent, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1962.

The Swinging Headhunter, November House (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1972.

The One-Star Jew (short stories), North Point (San Francisco, CA), 1983.

Red Love (novel), Scribner's (New York, NY), 1991.

Making the Wiseguys Weep: The Jimmy Roselli Story, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Joe Pantoliano) Who's Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-Up Guy, Dutton (New York, NY), 2002.

Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin, Rodale (Emmaus, PA), 2004.

The Great Kisser (novel), Rager Media (Medina, OH), 2006.

Event (literary magazine), founding editor; Paris Review, former fiction editor.

Contributor to periodicals, including New Republic, Paris Review, Antioch Review, Commentary, Southwest Review, TriQuarterly, Saint Ann's Review, New York Times Magazine, New York Times Book Review, Witness, Chelsea, Ninth Letter, Beloit Fiction Journal, Heeb, Midstream, Moment, Dissent, Nation, and Mister Beller's Neighborhood.

Contributor to anthologies, including Best American Short Stories.

Making the Wiseguys Weep has been optioned as a film by Touchstone/Disney.

SIDELIGHTS:

David Evanier's The One-Star Jew is a collection of stories, the longest of which bears the book's title, a reference to Luther Glick, a pony-tailed Jew in his fifties who is into "cosmic consciousness" and who belongs to a Buddhist sect that meets in a Westchester church attic. Milton Hindus wrote in the National Review that he first learned of Evanier through their mutual admiration of the poetry of Charles Reznikoff. Hindus noted that Evanier included Reznikoff's poem "Kaddish" in his "My Rabbi, Ray Charles, and Singing Birds." In this story a young couple about to marry asks their rabbi to include the poem, a variation on the prayer for the dead, in their ceremony. The rabbi is willing but wants to omit the last two lines, which he considers too depressing and disturbing. The couple insist that they be included, and the rabbi complies.

Evanier's stories in The One-Star Jew revolve around New York as it was and as it is. He paints a picture of old New York and the places his father had taken him as a child—the Automat, the Paramount Theater, and the Laffmovie, all now replaced by decadence. He writes of people like Ben Knapp, a fundraiser who dies at the foot of the stairs in the Times Square subway station. Hindus remarked that "compassion, humor, individualization—these or variations upon these qualities are characteristic of all fourteen stories…. The book is written in clear, hard-edged prose, and yet its innermost core is poetic. Evanier is a New Yorker in a sense in which the New Yorker hardly is (The New Yorker, I would say, is a non-New Yorker's idea of what a New Yorker is or ought to be)." Hindus noted that from his observations, anecdotes, and stories Evanier "has made an absorbing, readable, thoughtful book that, though never crudely calculating or exploitative of sentiment, arouses a real feeling of nostalgia and recognition in an old New Yorker of an earlier generation."

In 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried for conspiring to pass atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. Evanier's Red Love is a fictional account of their story. He renames the Rosenbergs Solly and Dolly Rubell. Solly, who had been a victim of the poverty and racism of rural Alabama, turned to Communism in 1930 at age eleven. Manny Block defended the Rosenbergs, and the government called Ethel's brother David Greenglass and his wife, Ruth, as witnesses. In the end Julius and Ethel chose not to reveal information about their collaborators and were sentenced to death by electric chair. A number of viewpoints are expressed in the thirty-three vignettes. "The novel evokes the dreams, often shredded by sanctimonious dogma, of Americans drawn to the Communist Party from the Depression to the McCarthy era," wrote Andy Solomon in the New York Times Book Review.

Evanier's fictional author and narrator, introduced in the prologue, is Gerald Lerner, who, like Evanier, has written two novels and publishes in "reactionary literary magazines" and similar publications. "Still, we can't assume that Evanier shares Gerald Lerner's views, for they so often appear to be ironic," noted Roger Draper in the New Leader. Other narrators enter with conflicting views, including an informer who talks of giving the FBI notes of his conversations with leftists and an FBI agent who feels that Dolly had been the driving force of their operation. Draper pointed out that President Dwight Eisenhower felt Ethel Rosenberg was the leader of the spy ring, in spite of the fact that she had only a high school education and was not likely to have been in the position of power.

Lerner reports on the stories of characters that include Sylvia Pollack. In the chapter "The Last Stalinist," Sylvia relates that her son was denied admittance to a mental hospital while she was away working as an activist. On her return she found he had hanged himself in her apartment. In another vignette, Manya Poffnick, who testified for the defense in the Rubells' trial, tells how she became disillusioned with the Communist Party and joined the Black Panther Party. Idealist Sammy Kuznekov joined the Young Communist League and fought in the Spanish Civil War to ultimately discover that the Russians were no better than Nazis. When Antonio Carelli's Communist father was deported, Antonio followed him to the Soviet Union only to find himself a prisoner in the labor camps. "Letters from Amerika," consists of notes exchanged by the Rubells written in their prison cells before their executions.

Lerner talks about his first contact with the Communist Party in the 1950s. His politics changed after a visit to Israel in 1961, but because he was still intrigued by the left he began writing Red Love. "Lerner's odyssey through what remains of the Rosenbergs' generation, not the fate of the two principals, is the real story of Red Love," wrote Draper. "Evanier implies the men and women of this milieu were guilty only of catastrophically wishful thinking…. Nonetheless, I am not at all sure that I would have been as fair to the Rosenbergs' world as David Evanier has managed to be."

Chilton Williamson, Jr., commented in the National Review on the vignette "The Reverend Very Big Bob." He wrote that the "madcap spoof on radio evangelism, while wickedly funny in itself, comes out of nowhere to create the suspicion that its inclusion has a political rather than an artistic rational, that it is intended as a token attack on the Middle America the Rubells and their fellow ‘progressives’ despised—as a piddling ideological counterweight to the massively anti-progressive thrust of the novel." Williamson called Red Love "a social and political novel whose realism, pathos, satire, and tragedy are lightened by comic surrealism that shades in places into pure farce, much of it hilarious…. David Evanier's finest literary achievement to date."

Evanier's Making the Wise Guys Weep: The Jimmy Roselli Story follows the career of the Italian-American tenor from Frank Sinatra's hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey. Roselli was not well known outside of the New York City area, in part because Sinatra was a hard act to follow. Roselli was born in the tenements in 1925. His mother died when he was young, and his father left him in the care of his grandfather, a longshoreman who spoke no English. Roselli was in his thirties before he was noticed with songs like "Mala Femmena" and "Innamorata." Until that time he had sung in small clubs and bars. Roselli opened each performance with his grandfather's words, "Cante, guaglione, cante!" ("Sing, little one, sing!") He associated with mob figures, was friendly with Sam Giancana, and sang at the wedding of John Gotti Jr., but his resistance to mob demands for a cut of his action hampered his career. Evanier quotes Roselli and tells his story with the help of friends, family, musicians, and promoters who knew him. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote: "Evanier's depiction of Italian-American life is vivid, as is the image of Roselli."

Evanier explores the life of another popular singer in Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin. Darin was a popular teen idol and singer in the late 1950s, known for hits such as "Mack the Knife" and "Splish Splash." A highly intelligent young man, Darin's musical career was driven by the knowledge that his health was fragile after rheumatic fever damaged his heart. Evanier recounts how, with his drive to succeed, Darin made an impact as an early rock singer, an actor, a music industry publisher and entrepreneur, and as a folk singer. "Evanier's sturdy bio quickly notes how the specter of early death spurred Bobby Darin to early fame," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The book includes numerous interviews with people who knew and worked with Darin, providing contemporary insight from close associates. Evanier also looks at the musician's personal life, including his difficult marriage to another hugely popular entertainer, Sandra Dee. Evanier's biography, noted a reviewer on MyShelf.com, "will let the younger generation know who Bobby Darin was and what an important part in the music industry he played, as well as how wonderful it was to hear his voice and think that we, the listeners, knew him, for we really thought we did."

Evanier collaborated with popular actor Joe Pantoliano to producer Who's Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-Up Guy, Pantoliano's autobiography and the story of his early life, his turbulent youth, and his rise to fame in the TV and movie business. "Joey Pants," as Pantoliano calls himself, is well-known for his role as Ralph Cifaretto on the television series The Sopranos, a hugely popular series about mobsters and organized crime. In the book, Pantoliano offers a "jovial account of his 1950s and '60s youth in Hoboken and Fort Lee, NJ," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Pantoliano and Evanier describe the actor's upbringing in an Italian-American family filled with eccentrics and distinctive personalities. The authors recount stories of Pantoliano's parents and their difficult relationship; his delinquent friends; his sometimes unusual relatives; and his numerous girlfriends. Pantoliano notes how the family was frequently uprooted when their luck or a landlord's patience ran out and they were evicted. Once a dyslexic, Pantoliano's academic achievements were minimal, but early experiences with acting helped him to achieve stability and balance. Notably, the actor spent time around family associates who were involved with the mob, particularly wise guy Florie, who moved in after being released from prison. The Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that Pantoliano "writes with energy, humor, and honesty," while Booklist contributor David Pitt observed that the actor writes "in a style that will be instantly familiar to his fans: tough, outspoken, but with a charming side, too."

The Great Kisser is a novel constructed from a series of eight connected short stories. Evanier "exhibits mastery in this new collection" of short fiction, commented a contributor to Publishers Weekly. In the book, Evanier collects a series of observations and episodes from the life of aging, unhappy writer and editor Michael Goldberg. Throughout the stories, Goldberg struggles with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy in all the important areas of his life as he searches for love, family, and success. In "The Tapes," Goldberg reconstructs the previous twenty-five years of his life when his therapist dies and leaves him access to a quarter-century of their taped sessions. After his father's death in "The Man Who Gave up Women," Goldberg reflects on the difficulty of enduring his father's constant insults. "Scraps" tells of his first girlfriend at age fourteen and his attempts to find acceptance from her family. In the title story, Goldberg's mother's death prompts him to recall the difficulties he endured with her over the years. "Evanier's stories boil with a satisfying sense of rage, stoked by sharp observation," concluded the Publishers Weekly reviewer.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, December 15, 1998, Mike Tribby, review of Making the Wiseguys Weep: The Jimmy RoselliStory, p. 716; October 15, 2002, David Pitt, review of Who's Sorry Now: The True Story of a Stand-Up Guy, p. 374.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2006, review of The Great Kisser, p. 977.

National Review, July 22, 1983, Milton Hindus, review of The One-Star Jew, p. 881; April 1, 1991, Chilton Williamson, Jr., review of Red Love, p. 48.

New Leader, May 20, 1991, Roger Draper, review of Red Love, p. 3.

New York Times, March 6, 2005, "Darin the ‘Brain,’ Dogs in the Garden," review of Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin, p. 12.

New York Times Book Review, June 2, 1991, Andy Solomon, review of Red Love, p. 20.

Publishers Weekly, April 15, 1983, review of The One-Star Jew, p. 46; December 14, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Red Love, p. 54; November 16, 1998, review of Making the Wiseguys Weep, p. 65; September 9, 2002, review of Who's Sorry Now, p. 54; October 18, 2004, review of Roman Candle, p. 58; September 18, 2006, review of The Great Kisser, p. 34.

ONLINE

BobbyDarin.net,http://www.bobbydarin.net/ (January 2, 2007), review of Roman Candle.

David Evanier Home Page,http://www.davidevanier.com (January 2, 2007).

MyShelf.com,http://www.myshelf.com/ (January 2, 2007), review of Roman Candle.

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Evanier, David

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