Sunday, April 25, 2010

Excerpts from Saul Bellow's Letters

In the New Yorker's April 26th, 2010 issue there is a selection of Saul Bellow's letters to other authors of his acquaintance entitled "Among Writers". I found many of Bellow's observations on life and letters thought provoking. Here are some excerpts:

"You were engaged, as a writer should be, in transforming yourself. When I read your collected stories I was moved to see the transformation taking place on the printed page. There's nothing that counts really except this transforming action of the soul. ---

Up and down on these rough American seas we've navigated for so many decades; we've had our bad trips too-unavoidable absurdities, dirty weather, but that doesn't count really. I've been trying to say what does count...."
(To John Cheever: December 9th, 1981)

"...losing a parent is something like driving through a plate-glass window. You didn't know it was there until it shattered, and then for years to come you're picking up the pieces-down to the last glassy splinter.

Of course you are your father, and he is you. I have often felt this about my own father, whom I half expect to see when I die. But I believe I do know how your father must have felt, sitting at his typewriter with an unfinished novel. Just as I understand your saying that you are your dad. With a fair degree of accuracy I can see this in my own father. He and I never seemed to be in rapport: our basic assumptions were very different. But that now looks superficial. I treat my sons much as he treated me: out of breath with impatience, and then a long inhalation of affection."
(To Martin Amis: March 13th, 1996)

"I don't do much of anything these days and I spend much of my time indoors. By far my pleasantest diversion is to play with Rosie, now four years old. It now seems to me that my parents wanted me to grow up in a hurry and that I resisted, dragging my feet. They (my parents, not my feet) needed all the help they could get. --- We often stopped before a display of children's shoes. My mother coveted for me a pair of patent-leather sandals with an elegantissimo strap. I finally got them - I rubbed them with butter to preserve the leather. This is when I was six or seven years old, a little older than Rosie is now. Amazing how it all boils down to a pair of patent-leather sandals."
(To Eugene Kennedy: February 19th, 2004)


Zakintosh said...

One of my many favourite writers. Lovely to see him here …

Musab said...

Awesomeness. Bellow has always been, along with Flaubert and Wodehouse, my great favorite for the perfection of his prose. The article in the New Yorker must make for a brilliant read.

Fawad Zakariya said...

The New Yorker piece is just a selection of his letters to other writers spanning 62 years. It is a wonderful read! There are letters to Phillip Roth, John Cheever, Lionel Trilling, Martin Amis, Cynthia Ozick among others. It is too bad that it is behind New Yorker's firewall. I find their digital archives for subscribers awful and extremely user-unfriendly.