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Saul Bellow: Letters Hardcover – November 4, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (November 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670022217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670022212
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #815,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Best of 2010 Lists "The New York Times," Michiko Kakutani's Top Ten of 2010 "The Washington Post," John Yardley's Best of 2010 "Minneapolis Star Tribune" "It comes as no surprise to find that the great novelist was a great correspondent as well. I hungrily read the book through in three nights, as though I'd stumbled upon a lost Bellow masterpiece only recently unearthed." ?Philip Roth "In the "Letters," as in everything he wrote, Saul Bellow never dipped below a certain level?and that level is stratospheric." ?Martin Amis "These aren't dashed-off notes, but letters that required considerable care and meant much to the author, as he expresses affection and support for other writers (Ellison, Roth, Malamud, Cheever, Amis et al.), takes critics and journalists to task with well-formed arguments and offers critical commentary on the culture that provides the context for his work (a culture that no longer values the art of writing letters)."

About the Author

Saul Bellow's dazzling career as a novelist has been marked with numerous literary prizes, including the 1976 Nobel Prize, and the Gold Medal for the Novel. His other books include The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, More Die of Heartbreak, Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories, Mr. Sammler's Planet, Seize The Day and The Victim. Saul Bellow died in 2005.

More About the Author

Saul Bellow won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel HUMBOLDT'S GIFT in 1975, and in 1976 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 'for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work.' He is the only novelist to receive three National Book Awards, for THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH, HERZOG, and MR. SAMMLER'S PLANET

Customer Reviews

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One feels in his letters the passion for the women he loved when he loved them.
Shalom Freedman
It's the unguarded quality of these letters, in which Bellow lays himself bare far more than in any conventional autobiography that makes this volume so engaging.
Bookreporter
While I did not read the book, I would highly recommend it as a gift to those who appreciate and enjoy Bellow's work.
H. A.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It's impossible to read this collection of some 700 of Saul Bellow's vast output of correspondence over more than 70 years without feeling a tinge of sadness. That's because our powerful and ubiquitous new modes of electronic communication make it almost certain we'll never see volumes like this one from some of our most talented contemporary authors. Bellow's deluge of commentary on the writing life, friendship, art, love, loss and the effort of one brilliant human being to navigate the choppy waters of a vibrant life almost makes us nostalgic in advance for what we'll be missing.

Novelist and essayist Benjamin Taylor, the editor of this collection (he contributes a brief interpretive essay and a chronology that will be especially helpful to those not intimately familiar with Bellow's work), does an effective job shifting the focus between the personal and professional in Bellow's life. Alongside copious correspondence with the author's Chicago childhood friends, extended letters to many of the major literary figures of the 20th century's second half appear in these pages. Bellow had long and warm exchanges with Ralph Ellison (who lived for a time in a house Bellow owned in Tivoli, New York), Robert Penn Warren and John Berryman. There's even one letter harshly critical of William Faulkner's support for a pardon for the anti-Semite Ezra Pound ("If sane he should be tried again as a traitor; if insane he ought not to be released merely because he is a poet."). His intense relationships with critics like Alfred Kazin and Lionel Trilling seemed to warm or cool based on the reception of his latest work. But in the end, he wrote in 1978 to his friend John Cheever, "There are no critics I could nominate for anything but crucifixion.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By JAK on May 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I don't think this book would be appealing to someone who isn't already pretty familiar with Bellow.You know who you are .You've read all or most of the novels and probably read James Atlas' biography.The letters on display here tend to be short.They are generally interesting but strike me as guarded. You get some good tidbits.My favorite was reading that I. B.Singer was of bad character .I would have loved a bit more.You generally don't get it.I was also surprised that there is as little discussion of literature as there is .I can think of any number of writers I would have enjoyed reading Bellow comment on.Instead you are more likely to read that Bellow looks forward to seeing Claire Bloom again .I guess I would too but no one would care. Content yourself with the pleasure that comes from reading one of America best novelists and literary intellectuals talking to and occasionally gossiping with his friends.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cal Thomas on December 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The humor that courses through these letters is remarkable. To cite just one example, a favorite of mine, is Bellow's letter to Henry Volkening in which Bellow, in a pure flight of fancy, recalls his chance encounter with F. Scott Fitzgerald--long dead at this point--in Europe. Bellow refers to Fitzgerald as "The Master of the Human Heart" and "The great analyst of the soul." It seems Fitzgerald-bashing was fashionable at the time (though I suppose Fitzgerald gets the last laugh now that his book is read by almost every high-schooler). Bellow's energy and wit make this book a joy to read. At times, your head is spinning. However, Bellow can sing in more than one key. Many of the letters are full of sorrow, nostalgia, anger, and joy (including those to the wives, childhood friends, and reviewers). Those to his fellow writers--Roth, Ozick, Cheever, Berryman, Ellison--are among the most engaging. Benjamin Taylor has done an amazing job of editing these letters and it's refreshing to read a collection that is brief but insightful in its annotation. As I believe it's already been said, it is not surprising that Bellow, the author of the letter-ridden Herzog (Penguin Classics), is also a wonderfully engaging letter-writer himself.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Patricia V. Blitzer on December 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Saul Bellow never envisioned a collection of his letters. We can thank Mr. Bellow's secretary for saving many of them. And Bellow's good friends and not-so-good friends too. But most of all, we must get down on our knees and thank Benjamin Taylor for this gorgeous book. Taylor only used about 20% of the material he gained access to. What he has crafted here has nothing less than the heft of a novel. Taylor traces the arc of Bellow's full-blown life using the words of the master, deliciously private words. I grew up reading Bellow and I thank my lucky stars Taylor had no agenda, no axe to grind. It's parlous to imagine Bellow's self-portrait in lesser hands. If you're smart, you'll put SAUL BELLOW:LETTERS in your Shopping Cart this minute. If nothing else, your own letters will improve. Thank you, Mr. Taylor, wherever you are. And by the way, I loved your novels, TALES OUT OF SCHOOL and THE BOOK OF GETTING EVEN.- Patricia Volk
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Bellow is one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century. These letters tell us quite about Bellow the man, Bellow in his personal relations. Unlike his famous 'Herzog' letters they are not directed to the dead and the living, the famous and great in many different walks of life. They do not take on for the most part the great intellectual issues. They are personal letters, and primarily concerned with Bellow himself and his own affairs. They reveal a person capable of loyalty and friendship, a writer of tremendously generous spirit capable of praising and forwarding the work of peers and potential rivals. They too reveal a man who loved women, and had and no doubt caused no small heartbreak in his relations with them. One feels in his letters the passion for the women he loved when he loved them. But for me the most impressive letters of all were those he wrote as father, both those to his sons, and those to former wives. Anyone who knows the tremendous pain and difficulty involved in being a divorced and caring father will appreciate Bellow's letters to his ex- wives. They are classic in the way he puts the welfare of the child above all, and the way he deals with the anger, resentment, bitterness, threats , blackmail of former wives. Bellow is of course also throughout these letters a master stylist a writer whose language is alive. He also shows moral backbone in a letter to William Faulkner explaining why he cannot support the release of Fascist propagandist poet Ezra Pound from incarceration. Bellow is also moving in a condolence letter he writes to Nathan Tarcov, the son of Bellow's longtime friend Oscar Tarcov. Bellow has the gift of empathy, of really seeking to feel and understand the person he is addressing. He is at the highest level in his emotional intelligence.Read more ›
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