Wednesday January 19th, 2011

Wilfrid Sheed, 1930-2011

Wilfrid Sheed, one of my literary idols, has died at 80. From the New York Times obituary:

As an avid baseball fan whose boyhood fantasies of diamond glory were dashed at 14 by the onset of polio, Mr. Sheed often said that as a writer he could play any position — a utility man of letters. But novelist was clearly a preferred role.

His gently comic fiction focused on self-perceived variations of himself. His early novels concerned American and English schoolboys (A Middle Class Education in 1960), a writer of inspirational pieces for minor Catholic publications (The Hack, 1963), a bore who learns to live with what he is (Square’s Progress, 1965), the beaten-down denizens of a small liberal magazine (Office Politics, 1966) and a too-brilliant film and theater critic (Max Jamison, 1970).

One of the earliest Backlist pieces for this site was one I wrote about Max Jamison and Essays in Disguise, a collection of Sheed’s inimitable reviews and essays. I also praised the latter book in a feature on the site’s one-year anniversary, in which contributors recommended their favorite out-of-print books.

If you haven’t read him, you should.