Saul Bellow: Letters

Saul Bellow: Letters

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by Saul Bellow
     
 

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A never-before-published collection of letters - an intimate self-portrait as well as the portrait of a century. 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… See more details below

Overview

A never-before-published collection of letters - an intimate self-portrait as well as the portrait of a century. 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. Intimate, ironical, richly observant, and funny, these letters reveal the influcences at work in the man, and illuminate his enduring legacy-the novels that earned him a Nobel Prize and the admiration of the world over. Saul Bellow: Letters is a major literary event and an important edition to Bellow's incomparable body of work.

Editorial Reviews

Michiko Kakutani
Herzog, the title character of Saul Bellow's 1964 novel, is famously a writer of letters he never sends…letters [that] are, by turns, cranky, coruscating, clever and cerebral: the outpourings of a man overflowing with ideas and grievances, and reeling from the complications of his life and the stubborn mystifications of the world around him. The real-life letters of Herzog's creator turn out to be just as arresting, seizing the reader by the lapels and refusing to let go…Taken together, the letters form a sort of discursive autobiography and intellectual cri de coeur.
—The New York Times
Jonathan Yardley
…Bellow was an exceptionally astute man. He was also formidably well-read, an intellectual in the deepest sense of the word but also a lover of pleasure in many forms. His collected letters are probably the last book we shall have from him…it is a very good one.
—The Washington Post
Praise for Saul Bellow: Letters
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
Saul Bellow: Letters is a treasure trove. It’s fascinating to see one of our great American writers take form.”
—Nathan Englander
“Magnificent… The man is all here in this book, in his stunning, almost baffling plenitude. Bellow’s letters are one of Bellow’s greatest books. Benjamin Taylor records that it contains only two-fifths of what Bellow called his “epistling,” but its riches are nonetheless immense. 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.”
—Leon Wieseltier, The New York Times Book Review
“Full of those wonderful vignettes that pepper his books, comic and perceptive at the same time… There’s so much going on here, such swift and impassioned dialogue between the spiritual and the physical, the place and those who inhabit it, that, as so often in his books, we can only gasp in joyful wonder.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Masterfully edit[ed].”
Vanity Fair
“A hefty, handsome volume… Chatty yet polished, and always vibrant, Bellow’s letters serve as the autobiography he never wrote.”
Los Angeles Times
“You must read this. If you’re a lover of prose, someone who knows how to savor the taste of a scrumptious sentence, then you’ll find morsels aplenty to set your eyes rolling to the back of your head in indecent pleasure.”
NPR
“Studded with brilliant passages… Just as Bellow’s novels teem with the turbulence of raw immediate experience burnished by the refiner’s fires of insight, emotion, and style, his letters make clear that his life was the source of that connected fullness.”
The New Yorker
“A window into literary genius.”
London Review of Books
“Arresting, seizing the reader by the lapels and refusing to let go… Bellow is a gifted and emotionally voluble letter writer. The Bellow that floats to the surface in this volume is a close spiritual relative of the heroes who populate his fiction: a seeker and searcher who also happens to be a first-class noticer; an intellectual, deep in what he once called “the profundity game,” who is constantly trying to balance the equation between rumination and action, solipsism and distraction, the temptations of selfhood and the noise of the real world.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“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.”
The Financial Times
“Bellow was an exceptionally astute man. He was also formidably well-read, an intellectual in the deepest sense of the word but also a lover of pleasure in many forms. His collected letters are probably the last book we shall have from him, and… a very good one.”
The Washington Post
“Drollery, mordancy, tenderness, quick-draw portraiture, metaphysical vaudeville, soul talk, heart pains, the whole human mess—Saul Bellow’s letters are a Saul Bellow novel, the author himself the protagonist. A Saul Bellow novel! A gift from the grave, like Humboldt’s. The great voice again, the peerless voice.”
—William Deresiewicz, The Nation
“Reveal[s] Bellow’s unfailingly high quality as a correspondent… Scarcely a letter in this volume is without an amusing phrase or arresting insight or interesting formulation.”
The New Criterion
“Feisty, smart, but most of all thrillingly intimate, these letters ripen and mature as they go along, just as some people do.”
Chicago Tribune
“These letters are rich in gossip, declarations of love and ambition, praise, criticism, and commiseration; the most touching among them are to the writers for whom he had tender feeling (John Berryman, Ralph Ellison, John Cheever) and those who appealed to him for help (William Kennedy, Wright Morris).”
Bookforum
“So richly characteristic on every page. What makes Bellow rare, possibly unique, among the great writers of the past century was [his] conviction that seeing had a metaphysical warrant, that perception, and the recording of perception, was not a pastime but an “assignment.””
—Adam Kirsch, The Times Literary Supplement
“The letters are all zest and craving and demand—so many journeys, so many cities, so many liaisons, so many courtings, so many marriages and partings, so many spasms of rage, so many victories and downers, so many blue or frenetic melancholias and grievances; but cumulatively they add up to a rich montage of knowing, speckled now and again with laughter, that most metaphysical of emotions.”
—Cynthia Ozick, The New Republic
“The virtue of these letters is found in their compassion.”
Playboy
“Ben Taylor’s meticulously edited and annotated volume of Bellow’s letters provides the most intimate glimpse we have yet received of how this voice emerged. Bellow’s language in letters, as in fiction, is stunning. His is an English both earnestly and adoringly cerebral and earthy, drawing on the cadences of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, Hyde Park Trotskyism, the high-church intellectualism of the University of Chicago, and the guys and dolls patois of Damon Runyon.”
Jewish Review of Books
“Flecked with remarkable judgments on the people he knew… Bellow’s letters reveal him as a restless, agitated truth-seeker, not unlike many of his characters.”
National Post
“These letters crackle with wit, often wicked and nonetheless satisfying for that.”
Commonweal Magazine
“Wonderful… offers a strong salve to those who miss his familiar voice. Like the fiction, the missives can be brilliant, glistening, scathing, boring, funny, generous, probing and always genuinely human.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“A generous sampling of the literary judgments of a great writer, with private assessments of his own work as well as that of others.”
The Huffington Post
“Insightful and engaging… This elegant edition provide[s] new insight into the relationship between Bellow’s life and his art.”
The Daily Beast
“Readers of Bellow will plunge into these letters eager to trace the making of a writer, and in this they will not be disappointed. Who, reading these letters, could not but love him? He was fearsome and kindly, tolerant and unforgiving, committed to his art but dedicated to the world. “I have,” he wrote, “sophisticated skin and naïve bones.” There was no one to match him, nor will be again.”
—John Banville, The Guardian (U.K.)
“Why not simply admit it? The new collection of Saul Bellow’s “Letters” is a modern reliquary. It is a treasured remnant of the beloved wonderworker. And who are the followers, the faithful? Bookish cranks, mainly, plus unstoppable line-quoters, Jewish lit fetishists, passionate scholars, and the unclassifiable lovers of living books.”
The Forward
“Taylor’s significant contribution constitutes the eloquent autobiography that Bellow never wrote.”
The Jewish Chronicle
“Thoughtful, eloquent, feisty. Benjamin Taylor has done a superb job in both his selection and his introduction to these salient letters from a gone world when literature was all the rage.”
Tablet Magazine
“Benjamin Taylor’s introduction and frequent brief identifying notes are models of elegant scholarly restraint.”
Boston Globe
“He is a great describer, a whiz with metaphor, a humanist, a life-affirmer, a practitioner of philosophical laughter.”
The New York Observer
“[A] cracking new volume… A principal pleasure in this chronological collection is the chronology itself—in the joy of watching a big man of American letters grow into himself, reflexively and reflectively, in the course of composing letters.”
The American Scholar
“A cause for celebration.”
New Statesman
“Wise, honest and often very funny… [This] may be the last of the great literary letter collections. Letters are often wrongly dismissed in the academy as worthless gossip, but the letters of great writers can be windows on to minds and social milieus once vibrant and alive, now long gone; arguments and issues from the past; literary craft; personal triumphs and tragedies; reminders of the teachings of Ecclesiastes (all is vanity); and insight into how smart people thought about peculiar situations in which they found themselves.”
The Second Pass
“A large and readable volume… essential to understanding the literary situation of the mid- to late 20th century.”
The Denver Post
“At once an autobiographical portrait and a work of literature unto itself… Brittle and brilliant as crystal—as prone to slice those who handled him as to dazzle those who gazed on from afar—Bellow attains that rare stature in which all that really matters is what is on the printed page. We no longer have him, but we will always have that.”
The Wilson Quarterly
“Everything you have heard and more, an essential text for any writer, aspiring or published.”
The Millions
“Reveal[s] the organic origins of the street-smart intellectual style that he first introduced in The Adventures of Augie March and perfected in Seize the Day and Henderson the Rain King.”
The Christian Science Monitor
“Illuminating… 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.”
Kirkus
“Collected and annotated by Benjamin Taylor, these letters reveal in Saul Bellow a rare consistency: From the first letter in 1932 to the last in 2005, Bellow’s ex-wives accrue, his fortunes rise and fall, but his character—as a man generous and preoccupied by literature—remains fixed.”
Time Out New York
“As entertaining, as infuriating, as tantalizing, as messy, as his novels… a wonderfully complex portrait of a unique individual.”
Tulsa World
“The letters gathered here disclose a fertile mind harnessed to a febrile temperament.”
Library Journal
“A lot of fanfare has been made in anticipation of the release of Saul Bellow: Letters, and for good reason.”
Jewcy
From the Publisher
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

“Saul Bellow: Letters is a treasure trove. It’s fascinating to see one of our great American writers take form.”
—Nathan Englander

“Magnificent… The man is all here in this book, in his stunning, almost baffling plenitude. Bellow’s letters are one of Bellow’s greatest books. Benjamin Taylor records that it contains only two-fifths of what Bellow called his “epistling,” but its riches are nonetheless immense. 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.”
—Leon Wieseltier, The New York Times Book Review

“Full of those wonderful vignettes that pepper his books, comic and perceptive at the same time… There’s so much going on here, such swift and impassioned dialogue between the spiritual and the physical, the place and those who inhabit it, that, as so often in his books, we can only gasp in joyful wonder.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“Masterfully edit[ed].”
—Vanity Fair

“A hefty, handsome volume… Chatty yet polished, and always vibrant, Bellow’s letters serve as the autobiography he never wrote.”
—Los Angeles Times

“You must read this. If you’re a lover of prose, someone who knows how to savor the taste of a scrumptious sentence, then you’ll find morsels aplenty to set your eyes rolling to the back of your head in indecent pleasure.”
—NPR

“Studded with brilliant passages… Just as Bellow’s novels teem with the turbulence of raw immediate experience burnished by the refiner’s fires of insight, emotion, and style, his letters make clear that his life was the source of that connected fullness.”
—The New Yorker

“A window into literary genius.”
—London Review of Books

“Arresting, seizing the reader by the lapels and refusing to let go… Bellow is a gifted and emotionally voluble letter writer. The Bellow that floats to the surface in this volume is a close spiritual relative of the heroes who populate his fiction: a seeker and searcher who also happens to be a first-class noticer; an intellectual, deep in what he once called “the profundity game,” who is constantly trying to balance the equation between rumination and action, solipsism and distraction, the temptations of selfhood and the noise of the real world.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“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.”
—The Financial Times

“Bellow was an exceptionally astute man. He was also formidably well-read, an intellectual in the deepest sense of the word but also a lover of pleasure in many forms. His collected letters are probably the last book we shall have from him, and… a very good one.”
—The Washington Post

“Drollery, mordancy, tenderness, quick-draw portraiture, metaphysical vaudeville, soul talk, heart pains, the whole human mess—Saul Bellow’s letters are a Saul Bellow novel, the author himself the protagonist. A Saul Bellow novel! A gift from the grave, like Humboldt’s. The great voice again, the peerless voice.”
—William Deresiewicz, The Nation

“Reveal[s] Bellow’s unfailingly high quality as a correspondent… Scarcely a letter in this volume is without an amusing phrase or arresting insight or interesting formulation.”
—The New Criterion

“Feisty, smart, but most of all thrillingly intimate, these letters ripen and mature as they go along, just as some people do.”
—Chicago Tribune

“These letters are rich in gossip, declarations of love and ambition, praise, criticism, and commiseration; the most touching among them are to the writers for whom he had tender feeling (John Berryman, Ralph Ellison, John Cheever) and those who appealed to him for help (William Kennedy, Wright Morris).”
—Bookforum

“So richly characteristic on every page. What makes Bellow rare, possibly unique, among the great writers of the past century was [his] conviction that seeing had a metaphysical warrant, that perception, and the recording of perception, was not a pastime but an “assignment.””
—Adam Kirsch, The Times Literary Supplement

“The letters are all zest and craving and demand—so many journeys, so many cities, so many liaisons, so many courtings, so many marriages and partings, so many spasms of rage, so many victories and downers, so many blue or frenetic melancholias and grievances; but cumulatively they add up to a rich montage of knowing, speckled now and again with laughter, that most metaphysical of emotions.”
—Cynthia Ozick, The New Republic

“The virtue of these letters is found in their compassion.”
—Playboy

“Ben Taylor’s meticulously edited and annotated volume of Bellow’s letters provides the most intimate glimpse we have yet received of how this voice emerged. Bellow’s language in letters, as in fiction, is stunning. His is an English both earnestly and adoringly cerebral and earthy, drawing on the cadences of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, Hyde Park Trotskyism, the high-church intellectualism of the University of Chicago, and the guys and dolls patois of Damon Runyon.”
—Jewish Review of Books

“Flecked with remarkable judgments on the people he knew… Bellow’s letters reveal him as a restless, agitated truth-seeker, not unlike many of his characters.”
—National Post

“These letters crackle with wit, often wicked and nonetheless satisfying for that.”
—Commonweal Magazine

“Wonderful… offers a strong salve to — Praise for Saul Bellow: Letters

Library Journal
The letters gathered here disclose a fertile mind harnessed to a febrile temperament. Saul Bellow (1915–2005) was acclaimed as a major Jewish American novelist of ideas, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976. His novels are being enshrined as classics in the "Library of America" series. In his epistles to literary agents, publishers, childhood friends, lovers, wives, academic colleagues, and fellow authors (notably Philip Roth, Martin Amis, Robert Penn Warren, and Ralph Ellison) Bellow could convey wit, humor, graciousness, and charm; mercurially, he could also be malicious, derisive, and vindictive. Yet most would acknowledge his sedulous mastery of craft. He had a long, productive literary life and a notoriously public one. The letters in this volume, which date from 1932 to 2005, have been selected from a much larger cache of correspondence and are creditably edited by essayist and novelist Taylor (graduate writing faculty, The New School). VERDICT Recommended for readers familiar with Bellow's novels and his literary circle.—Lonnie Weatherby, McGill Univ. Lib., Montreal

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101445327
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/04/2010
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
624
Sales rank:
1,169,420
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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