Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow was a major University of Chicago presence for many, many years and any blog with our name should mention his death. But life is short and the stack of unread books is stratospherically high. I have not read one word by Saul Bellow. I know I should read something, but other books have called more loudly or more seductively or more imploringly. But, though the man is gone the books remain and I hope to get to him. Someday.

Rest in peace.

(Good rundown of obituaries and tributes on Arts and Letters Daily. Other good links from Metafilter. UPDATE: Richard Brookhiser weighs in.)

4 thoughts on “Saul Bellow”

  1. No. Those are almost all economists, with a few exceptions — Fermi, McNeill, Reagan as an “honorary” member of the Boyz. Jonathan set it up, with some input from me, and neither of us are fans of Bellow. We used to have more pictures, and we may at some point have a rotating cast of pictures, out of a larger set, which will change whenever you reopen the page. (If anyone can tell Jonathan how to do that, please do so.)

  2. Not to give the wrong impression. I’ve read a couple of Bellow’s books. Whether or not one likes his novels, he was intelligent about many issues. Would that more novelists were so thoughtful.

  3. I haven’t read as much as Jonathan has of Bellows’ work. But our blog today seems an appropriate place for a couple of passages.

    First, the conclusion of his Nobel speech, which notes the humble, character-driven nature of the novel:

    The novel can’t be compared to the epic, or to the monuments of poetic drama. But it is the best we can do just now. It is a sort of latter-day lean-to, a hovel in which the spirit takes shelter. A novel is balanced between a few true impressions and the multitude of false ones that make up most of what we call life. It tells us that for every human being there is a diversity of existences, that the single existence is itself an illusion in part, that these many existences signify something, tend to something, fulfill something; it promises us meaning, harmony and even justice. What Conrad said was true, art attempts to find in the universe, in matter as well as in the facts of life, what is fundamental, enduring, essential.

    Second, from the anthologized “Mr. Green.” Its epigraph “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. . . ” from Ecclesisastes reflects how many of us look to work to give order and purpose. In this Chicago are “factories boarded up, buildings deserte or fallen, gaps of prairie between” but “it wasn’t desolation that it made you feel, but rather a faltering of organization that set free a huge energy, an escaped, unattached, unregulated power from the giant raw place.” Grebe “had something to do. To be compelled to feel this energy and yet have no task to do–that was horrible; that was suffering; he knew what that was.” In the end, he doesn’t reach “Mr. Green,” but rather a woman, “whoever she was, the woman stood for Mr. Green” and “it was important that there was a real Mr. Green whom they could not keep him from reaching because he seemed to come as an emissary from hostile appearances.”

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