PERSONAL: Born in Italy. Education: Bennington College, B.A.; Columbia University School of the Arts, M.F.A.
ADDRESSES: Agent— Tina Bennett, Janklow Nesbit Associates, 445 Park Ave., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Writer and critic.
The Right Bitch (novel), Grove Weidenfeld (New York, NY), 1992.
Life and Love, Such as They Are (novel), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
A Feast of Words: For Lovers of Food and Fiction (essays), with drawings by the author, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1996.
The Scourge (e-book), USA Today, 2001. Living on Air (novel), Soho Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including New Yorker, New York Times Book Review, Nation, New York Observer, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and the London Observer.
SIDELIGHTS: Anna Shapiro is a novelist, nonfiction writer, and reviewer whose work has appeared in the New Yorker. In A Feast of Words: For Lovers of Food and Fiction, Shapiro offers a collection of essays that explore how food is used to tell stories. Drawing on the work of twenty prominent writers, Shapiro extracts from their stories the kernel of truth represented by food, highlighting “celebrations of food, memorably awful meals, plots that turn and fates that hinge on breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” noted Francine Prose in People. She covers important food-related scenes and plot developments in a number of well-known stories, including important feasts in Anna Karenina, fish chowder in Moby Dick, revolution-spawning strawberries in Emma, and the frozen leg of lamb that served as a murder weapon in Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter.” Shapiro also includes a selection of straightforward recipes based on these references to literary foodstuffs. Shapiro “melds the art of literature with the craft of cuisine,” observed Booklist reviewer Alice Joyce.
Life and Love, Such as They Are tells the story of six romantically entangled persons as they break up, fall in love, flirt, connect, and try to make sense of it all. When aspiring painter Ella Vaporsky falls in love with Frank, a married photographer, she decides that she must make a break from her trustworthy but dull lover Steven, whom she has been with for more than ten years. Burton, a neurotic conductor, tries to romance quiet and talented violinist Cynthia, who loves him, but she is a woman who lacks self-confidence and who submits herself to being hurt because she doesn’t believe she deserves anything better. Ave manipulates men to her advantage, but she has no illusions about what she does—and as Burton’s lover, her hold on him is solid. “The interactions between these characters are both comical and tragic,” commented Booklist critic Lindsay Throm. “For sharp characterization and wry, generally acerbic comments on relationships, Shapiro outclasses most of her peers,” commented a reviewer in Publishers Weekly.
Maude Pugh, the teenage protagonist of Living on Air, is dissatisfied with her life as an artist’s daughter. Her father, Milt, a struggling modernist painter, is an arrogant, domineering sort, involved with his own interests to the exclusion of most everyone else. To better display his brightly colored canvases, he paints every room in the house black. Maude’s mother, Nina, is not merely socially conscious but socially terrified, worried that her neighbors may well be her social superiors. Maude’s disaffected sixteen-year-old brother Seth, his parents’ darling, has had enough of the foolishness at home and disappears, leaving his parents to blame Maude and to pummel her with emotional broadsides. Harboring a desire to be an artist, and covetous of the trappings of wealth she sees in her father’s clients, Maude manages to get a short-lived scholarship to prep school Bay Farm. There, she befriends wealthy Weezie, who has mistaken romantic notions about the nobility of poverty. Meanwhile, a rocky romance with a boy named Danny threatens to devastate her emotionally. “Shapiro’s portrait of Maude is knife-sharp; she completely inhabits the consuming inner world of a painfully intelligent adolescent girl, showing Maude’s every mood, thought, and desire with piercing clarity,” commented a Kirkus Reviews critic. The novel is “crowded with the closely observed details that describe both the lives of her characters and the culture they inhabit,” observed Michael Cart in Booklist.A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Shapiro a “shrewd anthropologist well versed in the cultures of adolescence, the ’60s, and class strife.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, December 15, 1993, Lindsay Throm, review of Life and Love, Such as They Are, p. 739; October 15, 1996, Alice Joyce, review of A Feast of Words: For Lovers of Food and Fiction, p. 399; April 1, 2006, Michael Cart, review of Living on Air, p. 21.
Entertainment Weekly, January 28, 1994, Kate Wilson, review of Life and Love, Such as They Are, p. 50.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2006, review of Living on Air, p. 204.
New York Times, January 16, 1994, Elizabeth Gleick, review of Life and Love, Such as They Are.
People, September 23, 2006, Francine Prose, review of A Feast of Words, p. 36.
Publishers Weekly, April 27, 1992, review of The Right Bitch, p. 251; November 15, 1993, review of Life and Love, Such as They Are, p. 70; March 13, 2006, review of Living on Air, p. 40.