Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Bellowvian Vapours

Saul Bellow seems to have been blessed with more personality than he could responsibly deal with -- he, and anyone who spun into his orbit.

A week or two ago, my usual daily clicks were linking up with quite a number of "My Time With Saul Bellow" accounts. Quite a number, but so very little to differentiate one from the other. I'd say Lee Siegel embodies the extreme -- by the midway mark, my body was in a permanent muscular clench thanks to all the cringing his admissions induced, and it didn't let up until I closed my browser and refreshed my coffee -- but even the normally steely gaze of Martin Amis turns hazy with nostalgia as he meditates on the man he met, the man he knew.

"Zachary Leader met Bellow only once. That was in 1972, at a party near Harvard, where Leader was a graduate student and Bellow was being awarded an honorary degree. Leader says that Bellow seemed bored, and he remembers nothing of what Bellow said. In the genre of Bellow biography, this counts as a credential." So says Louis Menand, as he warms up to his review of Leader's new biography of Bellow, the stimulant to this public resurgence of memory. Menand's gaze does not get blurry in the least, not when staring at Bellow and his foibles, nor when appraising the man's work -- and Leader's. And for that, "Young Saul," his review at The New Yorker gets my recommendation.

2 comments:

paul bowman said...

“Bellow came on the scene at a time when many people imagined the fate of modern man to be somehow tied to the fate of the novel. Was the novel dead or was it not? Much was thought to depend on the answer.” — You’d think he was talking about something centuries rather than decades removed.

Darrell Reimer said...

It's certainly beginning to feel like centuries, to some of us.