Shnayerson, Michael 1954-
SHNAYERSON, Michael 1954-
Born December 2, 1954, in Seattle, WA; son of Robert (a magazine editor) and Lydia (a pianist; maiden name, Todd) Shnayerson; married Cynthia Stuart (a magazine editor), December 12, 1987. Education: Dartmouth College, B.A., 1976. Politics: Democrat.
Home—174 Pacific St., No. 3-G, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Office—Conde Nast Traveler, 360 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017.
Authors Guild, Yale Club (New York, NY).
Irwin Shaw: A Biography, Putnam (New York, NY), 1989.
The Car that Could: The Inside Story of GM's Revolutionary Electric Vehicle, Random House (New York, NY), 1996.
(With Mark J. Plotkin) The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise of Drug-Resistant Bacteria, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
Contributing editor, Vanity Fair, 1986—, and National Geographic Adventure; consulting editor, Conde Nast Traveler, 1986—.
Michael Shnayerson, a staff writer at Vanity Fair, has written three books on three very different subjects: a biography of Irwin Shaw, a history of General Motors's electric automobile, and a study on drug-resistant bacteria.
In his biography Irwin Shaw, Shnayerson portrays his subject as an immense talent who chose material success and fame over artistic integrity and allowed his flamboyant lifestyle to overshadow his literary career. William French, writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, called the work "a model literary biography," adding that Shnayerson "does a commendable job analyzing and judging almost everything Shaw wrote." And Chicago Tribune reviewer Joseph Coates concluded that Shnayerson's "overall judgment of Shaw as a life-loving artist corrupted by an excess of sheer talent and facility is likely to stand."
Shnayerson once told CA: "A major motivation in the writing of my Shaw biography was the hope of restoring to his rightful place a writer unfairly maligned by literary critics of his time. If I write another biography, I expect my subject will be similarly in need of rediscovery. I have no interest in the prevalent style of biography, namely tearing down heroes and icons."
In The Car that Could: The Inside Story of GM's Revolutionary Electric Vehicle, Shnayerson recounts the history of the Electric Vehicle (EV) project. "Despite having spent nearly four years following the EV project, Shnayerson maintains an admirable objectivity about its prospects," noted Alex Taylor, III, in Fortune. The author—who was permitted special access to the "under-wraps" project and its managers, engineers, and facilities—discusses the environmental concerns and governmental regulations that led to the birth of the EV, the somewhat messy details of the developmental process, and GM's hopes and concerns about the future of the electric car. Bill Visnic of Ward's Auto World felt that Shnayerson's writing was "at times a tad melodramatic," but was wholly impressed by the quality of the writing and the accessibility of the story. Visnic has expected "a dry technical read"; what he found was "an involving, compelling trip through the serpentine car-production maze that is GM."
Shnayerson teamed up with ethnobotanist Mark J. Plotkin to write The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise of Drug-Resistant Bacteria, an in-depth study of the dangerous growth of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. According to Verna Noel Jones on the Rocky Mountain News Web site, the authors "paint a frightening picture of bacteria that will run amok within just a few years if something isn't done to stop them." A Publishers Weekly reviewer appreciated that Shnayerson and Plotkin "make the copious scientific information accessible to general readers," although the reviewer found the book's tone to be "alarmist" at times. Library Journal reviewer Tina Neville called The Killers Within "an extremely readable book"; a Kirkus Reviews contributor described it as a "scientific page turner"; and Jones noted that it is "bound to keep you up at night."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Barron's, October 28, 1996, review of The Car that Could: The Inside Story of GM's Revolutionary Electric Vehicle, p. 62.
Booklist, September 1, 1996, David Rouse, review of The Car that Could, p. 46; September 1, 2002, William Beatty, review of The Killers Within: The Deadly Rise of Drug-Resistant Bacteria, p. 35.
Business Week, September 23, 1996, review of The Car that Could, p. 16; December 16, 1996, review of The Car that Could, p. 19.
Chicago Tribune, September 14, 1989.
E, March-April, 2003, review of The Killers Within, p. 59.
Fortune, October 28, 1996, Alex Taylor, III, review of The Car that Could, p. 193.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 12, 1989.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 1996, review of The Car that Could, p. 956; July 15, 2002, review of The Killers Within, p. 1017.
Library Journal, August, 1996, review of The Car that Could, p. 108; March 15, 1997, review of The Car that Could, p. 37; September 1, 2002, Tina Neville, review of The Killers Within, pp. 203-204.
London Review of Books, August 21, 1997, review of The Car that Could, p. 17.
New York Review of Books, November 28, 1996, review of The Car that Could, p. 32.
New York Times Book Review, November 24, 1996, review of The Car that Could, p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, July 1, 1996, review of The Car that Could, pp. 49-50; August 12, 2002, review of The Killers Within, pp. 291-292.
Ward's Auto World, August, 1996, Bill Visnic, review of The Car that Could, p. 52.
Washington Monthly, November, 1996, Matthew L. Wald, review of The Car that Could, pp. 57-58.
Washington Post Book World, August 6, 1989.
Electrifying Times Book Review Online,http://www.electrifyingtimes.com/ (January, 1997), Bob Wing, review of The Car that Could.
Rocky Mountain News,http://www.rockymountainnews.com/ (September 13, 2002), Verna Noel Jones, review of The Killers Within.
Time Warner Bookmark,http://www.twbookmark.com/ (March 6, 2003), review of The Killers Within and biography of Michael Shnayerson.*