Wendy and the Lost Boys, Julie Salamon

I stayed up all night to finish this new (well, the first, really) biography of Wendy Wasserstein, and you should too. It’s fantastic.

It also made me furious at the basic unfairness of the universe, obviously, that someone should be so talented and have a young child and be so full of generosity and warmth and interest in the world, and not get to live. And that female beauty carries such weight in our society; honestly, if a man possessed a comparable degree of physical attractiveness to Wendy Wasserstein, with that kind of creative prowess and professional success and kindness, he would be married to Meryl Streep. Not that Wendy Wasserstein didn’t live a rich and full life, but if she had been male, she might have been beating women off with a stick.

Not that she lacked for utterly fascinating male companionship:

“She had so many husbands. She had a harem of husbands,” Salamon says. They were the stars of the New York theater scene: Andre Bishop of Lincoln Center, playwrights Terrence McNally and Christopher Durang, director Gerry Gutierrez and critic Frank Rich.

Wendy and the Lost Boys is tremendously strong on Wasserstein’s family, her secrecy, her entourage of devoted friends, her relationship with money and class, and the marvelous ambivalence of her plays. It’s also one of those biographies that benefits from the double-edged sword of being written very soon after the subject’s death, when you still have access to the individuals who knew her best — you really have to want to get it right, and Julie Salamon gets it right.