I was delighted a few weeks ago when Paul Bauer and Mark Dawidziak, authors of Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, and Hollywood Brawler, my favorite biography of 2011, came to NYU to speak about their book at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House. I’d been in touch with Paul and Mark last November after I blogged about the book in a piece called Lost American Writer Found–Jim Tully and so was excited to attend their talk and meet them in person, especially because my artist wife Kyle Gallup and our actor and writer son Ewan, would be coming with me.
Paul and Mark gave a great talk, using photographs and film clips to anatomize the story of Tully’s life. Their book chronicles the life of the hobo writer-turned Hollywood insider who minted the hardboiled style of prose that would become even better known later on in the books of Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and Dashiell Hammett. The pictures accompanying this post should give you some flavor of their talk. It was a treat meeting them afterward, and the next day, having Paul over to our apartment for tea and rugelach. He’s been a second-hand book dealer for many years and so it was great to not only talk about Tully, whose early book Circus Parade I’d been reading, but also to show Paul volumes from our library.
Last November I wrote this about their book, which I stand by today as my summing up of the author’s visit to New York City.
“Biographers Bauer and Dawidziak steep the reader in Tully’s lifelong struggle to make himself into a significant person; glimpsing his continual act of self-creation is what I found thrilling about this book. The authors chronicle how even in relatively prosperous years, he continued striving to create himself and forge his work. . . . What’s great about the Tully bio–and other books like it that achieve this deep level of discourse with their subject’s life–is that the reader has a chance to assemble, in ways the biographer shows one how to do, how a literary career is lived and aspired toward, and achieved. The successful biography spans the decades and folds of a life, making the living subject comprehensible and one whom we understand. That’s what happened for me with Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler, and why this book will be on my best list for 2011.”