Saul Bellow: Letters

Saul Bellow, Benjamin Taylor (ed.)

Saul Bellow: Letters

Saul Bellow was a dedicated correspondent until a couple of years before his death, and his letters, spanning eight decades, show us a twentieth-century life in all its richness and complexity. Friends, lovers, wives, colleagues, and fans all cross these pages. Some of the finest letters are to Bellow's fellow writers — William Faulkner, John Cheever, Philip Roth, Martin Amis, Ralph Ellison, Cynthia Ozick, and Wright Morris. 4.4 out of 5 based on 10 reviews
Saul Bellow: Letters

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Essays, Journals & Letters, Literary Studies & Criticism
Format Hardback
Pages 608
RRP £30.00
Date of Publication November 2010
ISBN 978-0670022212
Publisher Penguin
 

Saul Bellow was a dedicated correspondent until a couple of years before his death, and his letters, spanning eight decades, show us a twentieth-century life in all its richness and complexity. Friends, lovers, wives, colleagues, and fans all cross these pages. Some of the finest letters are to Bellow's fellow writers — William Faulkner, John Cheever, Philip Roth, Martin Amis, Ralph Ellison, Cynthia Ozick, and Wright Morris.

Reviews

The New Statesman

Leo Robson

The existence of the collection is a cause for celebration, but there are shortcomings, especially in the provision of contextual detail … The reader becomes, at such maddening moments, hungry from deprivation, weary with conjecture. But most of the time we are the opposite of hungry and weary. I read these 550 pages with an overpowering feeling of joy.

11/11/2010

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The New York Times

Michiko Kakutani

Taken together, the letters form a sort of discursive autobiography and intellectual cri de coeur. They amplify Bellow’s argument that all American books, including his own, “pant” after meaning. They underscore his simultaneous craving for intellectual conversation and his impatience with the literary establishment and what he called “fashionable extremism” — “the hysterical, shallow and ignorant academic ‘counterculture.’ ” And they point up the highly personal sources of much of his fiction

08/11/2010

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The New York Times

Leon Wieseltier

Taylor has selected and edited and annotated these letters with exquisite judgment and care. This is an elegantissimo book. Our literature’s debt to Taylor, if our culture still cares, is considerable.

18/11/2010

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The Evening Standard

David Sexton

These letters are tremendously engaged and forceful … This volume is under-edited, offering no guide to the correspondents and too few notes and illustrations, so that you need to read it with James Atlas's biography to hand … Never mind. Bellow's Letters reveal his greatness on every page. The temptation is to quote them all.

18/11/2010

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The Financial Times

Justin Cartwright

Bellow’s sheer brio, his occasional feuds and deep friendships, his unquenchable enthusiasm for being human, and his incomparable prose, make this collection of letters an absolute must for anyone who is remotely interested in American literature of the 20th century.

08/11/2010

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The Sunday Telegraph

Christopher Tayler

It’s clear from Bellow’s letters that he was heroically self-involved – an ultra-eloquent version of those people who preface every statement with “The thing about me is…” It’s equally clear that he was well aware of this, knew that it was the engine of his writing, and could step outside himself with sensitivity and grace when the occasion called for it.

14/11/2010

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The Guardian

John Banville

Oddly, the collection is not as exciting or stimulating as one would expect from this most incandescent and opinionated of writers. Although there are some wonderful set-pieces – a long fantasy of meeting Scott Fitzgerald in Europe, for instance, and a scorching protest to the New Yorker over Anthony West's adverse review of Augie March – it would seem that, unlike his greatest creation, the maniacally epistolary Moses Herzog, Bellow in his letters tended to relax the force of his personality.

20/11/2010

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The Observer

Benjamin Markovits

We learn a lot about Bellow's artistic development, his thoughts on style, his reactions to other writers and their books, but less about his marriages and children... On the whole, though, the image of Bellow that emerges from this collection moved me much more often than it disappointed.

31/10/2010

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The Washington Post

Jonathan Yardley

…the selection of letters is a bit odd. There are a great many very brief notes of little or no import, yet I sense that some letters of real value have either been missed or rejected… Still, there is far more to celebrate than to lament. He was by all accounts, including his own, a difficult man, possessed of what he called an "austere-critical mind," but he was also keenly observant, generous in his fashion, unfailingly forthright and often very funny.

05/11/2010

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The Sunday Times

Peter Kemp

What is glaringly lacking from the book is any sense of Bellow’s power, range and vividness as a writer. Anyone eager for the “exuberant ideas, flashing ironies, hilarious comedy and burning compassion” hailed in the citation for his Nobel prize in 1976 would be well advised to bypass this dispiriting sackload of ill-tempered, tedious and self-regarding mail and head straight back to his fiction.

14/11/2010

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