Stein, Sol 1926-

views updated

Stein, Sol 1926-

PERSONAL:

Born October 13, 1926, in Chicago, IL; son of Louis (a jewelry designer and manufacturer) and Zelda Stein (a translator for the UN); married, 1947; married second wife, Patricia Day (a book publisher), March 31, 1962; married third wife, Edith Shapiro (a doctor), November 25, 2000; children: Kevin David, Jeffrey Lewelyn, Leland Dana, Robert Bruce, Andrew Charles, David Day, Elizabeth Day. Education: City College (now City College of the City University of New York), B.S.S., 1948; Columbia University, M.A., 1949, Ph.D. candidate, 1949-51.

ADDRESSES:

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

CAREER:

2

Writer, editor, publisher, novelist, screenwriter, playwright, poet, lecturer, and educator. City College (now City College of the City University of New York), New York, NY, lecturer in social studies, 1948-51; Voice of America, New York, NY, senior editor of ideological advisory staff, 1951-53; Beacon Press, Boston, MA, general editor and originator of Beacon Press paperbacks, 1954-57; Stein and Day (publishers), New York, NY, founder, president, and editor-in-chief, 1962-89. American Committee for Cultural Freedom, executive director, 1953-56; Research Institute of America, executive membership division, managing editor, 1956-58; lecturer in dramatic arts, Columbia University, 1958-60; McCann-Erickson, project manager, 1959; lectured on creative writing at the University of Iowa and the University of California at Irvine; Mid-Century Book Society, executive vice-president and founder, 1959-62; member of executive committee of American Friends of the Captive Nations. Actors Studio, Playwrights Group, founding member. Military service: U.S. Army, 1945-47; became first lieutenant.

MEMBER:

International Brotherhood of Magicians (honorary life member), New Dramatists Committee (member of council), Playwrights Group, Actors Studio, honorary Phi Beta Kappa.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Yaddo fellowship, 1952; MacDowell Colony fellowships, 1952, 1953, and 1954; best full-length play, Dramatists Alliance, for Napoleon, 1953; Distinguished Instructor Award, 1992, the University of California at Irvine, for courses on dialogue and advanced fiction writing.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

The Husband, Coward-McCann (New York, NY), 1969.

The Magician (Book-of-the-Month Club selection), Delacorte (New York, NY), 1971.

Living Room (Literary Guild selection), Arbor House (New York, NY), 1974.

The Childkeeper, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (New York, NY), 1975.

Other People, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (New York, NY), 1979.

The Resort, Morrow (New York, NY), 1980.

The Touch of Treason, St. Martin's/Marek (New York, NY), 1985.

A Deniable Man, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1989.

The Best Revenge: A Novel of Broadway, Random House (New York, NY), 1991.

NONFICTION

A Feast for Lawyers: Inside Chapter 11—an Expose, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1989.

Stein on Writing, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.

How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.

(With James Baldwin) Native Sons: A Friendship that Created One of the Greatest Works of the Twentieth Century: Notes of a Native Son, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.

PLAYS

Napoleon, first produced by the Dramatists at ANTA Theatre, 1953.

A Shadow of My Enemy, first produced at ANTA Theatre, 1957.

Contributor of poetry, articles, and reviews to literary journals.

Producer and developer of computer software for writers, including WritePro, FirstAid for Writers, and FictionMaster.

Author's works have been translated into Spanish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portugese, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Dutch, Greek, Japanese, and Russian.

ADAPTATIONS:

Author's works have been adapted to audio.

SIDELIGHTS:

Sol Stein is a veteran novelist, editor, and publisher. In his long career in the publishing industry, Stein has written bestselling novels; founded well-regarded publishing imprints; and edited and published the works of several literary notables. He is a produced playwright, anthologized poet, essayist and reviewer. Stein is also known as a pioneer in teaching writers through computer programs. His software program, WritePro, provides beginning writers with step-by-step assistance in creating functional characters, dialogue, and plots, while FictionMaster offers more advanced guidance for novelists.

Stein once told CA: "The consciousness of an audience that guides a playwright's work is sometimes absent in a novelist's. A novelist makes a great leap forward at the point when he realizes that writing is a triadic relationship, that he is creating a work that in turn must affect an audience. If as soon as his work is completed, the novelist is hit by the proverbial truck, that should not change the effect of the work on the audience. Many writers have been misguided into believing they are expressing themselves. Not at all, the function of the writer as artist is to orchestrate his materials to provide the reader with an experience.

"The second most important step is for the novelist to realize how several generations of readers have been accustomed by motion pictures and television to see; as a result, in contemporary fiction, the ‘immediate scene’ (one that could be filmed) has come to predominate over narrative summary (what happens offstage) and description."

That Stein successfully "affects" his own audiences is indicated both by the sales of his books (The Husband, for example, sold nearly 400,000 copies, while The Magician sold more than a million) and the praise of many critics. In the New York Times Book Review, Webster Schott remarked about The Magician that "the author works the language beautifully. Clean, precise narrative sentences. Pictorial descriptive passages. Dialogue that comes from speech." And in another review also for the New York Times Book Review, novelist Rona Jaffe commented that Living Room "is a crisp, clever, poignant and sometimes funny book and I liked it a lot." In addition, Susan Isaacs, writing in the Washington Post Book World, observed of Other People: "Sol Stein has created a meaty, intricate tale, full of unexpected twists and breathless turns and who-would-have-believed-it coincidences." Moreover, a West Coast Review of Books critic added that Other People "should be a must on every reader's list and, even more important, on every writer's, because it is a model of a marvelously molded story." Susan Wolfe, writing in the Los Angeles Times, called The Resort "a thriller that maintains suspense right to its not-so-sanguine end. The Resort will remain chillingly in the mind for a long time to come."

Stein has dedicated considerable effort to the training and development of upcoming generations of writers, often lecturing on creative writing, publishing, and related topics. As part of this educational mission, he has written two books of advice and techniques for writers. In Stein on Writing, he "offers a banquet of savvy advice" for novice and intermediate-level writers, noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. Stein focuses on practical matters of fiction writing, including shaping believable characters, crafting a compelling and plausible plot, and creating authentic-sounding dialogue. He also advises writers on how to adapt fiction-writing techniques to the creation of nonfiction. The Publishers Weekly reviewer called Stein's work a "stimulating guide" for writers. William Relling, Jr., writing in Library Quarterly, noted that the book lacks some focus and is hindered by too many digressions. However, he concluded that "something of value may also be found in many of Stein's opinions on the topics of characterization, plotting, revising, and so forth," and that "there are genuine nuggets here for aspiring writers to mine."

With How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them, Stein offers a "delightful instruction session" on crafting novel-length stories that appeal to the various demands of readers, noted Library Journal reviewer Angela M. Weiler. He does not dwell on the type of writer who claims to write solely for themselves, or for the sake of art. Instead, Stein encourages the type of popular fiction writing that revolves around a deep relationship between the writer and the reader. Novelists and fiction writers can be assured of creating successful works by being aware of what the reader wants, and treating the reader with "courtesy," Stein says. Weiler remarked that writers seeking to improve their work will be "well rewarded by reading this collection of tips, methods, and numerous anecdotes."

In addition to his own work as a writer and teacher, Stein is also a publisher. He is the founder of the prestigious publishing firm Stein and Day, which has produced many hundreds of books by some of the most notable writers of the twentieth century, including Dylan Thomas, Elia Kazan, and Lionel Trilling. One of Stein's closest friends was James Baldwin, author of works such as Go Tell it on the Mountain, Giovanni's Room, and Sonny's Blues. A brilliant essayist, Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son, written while he was living abroad in Paris in the early 1950s, is considered a masterwork. In Native Sons: A Friendship that Created One of the Greatest Works of the Twentieth Century: Notes of a Native Son, Stein tells of how the book came into existence and how he served as editor for this seminal work. Stein also tells of his long friendship with Baldwin, from their days as buddies at the DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx until the author's death in 1987. Native Sons contains photographic reproductions of some thirty letters exchanged between Stein and Baldwin during the editorial process that shaped and crafted the author's collection of essays. Stein offers introductory essays for the letters, with insight on the epistolarians' personal state and goings-on in the world around them when the letters were written. Stein's observations and commentary on the correspondence is "rich in fascinating literary history and sharp observations on racism, anti-Semitism, and their biracial friendship," commented Donna Seaman in Booklist. Reviewer Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, writing in Crisis, found that the insight into the writing and editorial process was a highlight of the book. "The interesting exchanges often concern editorial business, the sort of behind-the-scenes work that every published book receives," Wellington commented. "We get to see which of Baldwin's lines Stein objected to, and we also see Baldwin's responses. It's an education in the normally invisible realities of writing and publishing, making Native Sons an excellent book for novice writers." Wendy Smith, writing in Kirkus Reviews, concluded: "These letters, capturing the men at a pivotal moment in their careers and friendship, remind us that a cultural landmark like Notes of a Native Son is also the product of a fallible, questing human being who misspelled words and worried about his relatives just like the rest of us."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of Native Sons: A Friendship that Created One of the Greatest Works of the Twentieth Century: Notes of a Native Son, p. 1810.

Book World, September 5, 2004, Emily Bernard, "Correspondence: Brothers in Literature," review of Native Sons, p. 6.

Crisis, September 1, 2004, Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, review of Native Sons, p. 53.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, Wendy Smith, review of Native Sons.

Library Journal, December, 1999, Angela M. Weiler, review of How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them, p. 152; June 15, 2004, Ron Ratliff, review of Native Sons, p. 70.

Library Quarterly, July, 1997, William Relling, Jr., review of Stein on Writing, p. 308.

Los Angeles Times, February 10, 1980, Susan Wolfe, "A Modern-Day Tale of Genocide," review of The Resort, p. L10.

New York Times Book Review, January 5, 1969, review of The Husband, p. 32; September 26, 1971, Webster Schott, review of The Magician, p. 53; May 19, 1974, Rona Jaffe, review of Living Room, p. 38; September 7, 1975, review of The Childkeeper, p. 41.

Publishers Weekly, October 2, 1995, review of Stein on Writing, p. 60.

Washington Post Book World, December 30, 1978, Susan Isaacs, review of Other People, p. C5.

West Coast Review of Books, March, 1979, review of Other People, p. 79.

ONLINE

Sol Stein Home Page,http://www.solstein.com (December 10, 2006).

About this article

Stein, Sol 1926-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article