April 8, 2005

A TOPIC OF INTEREST ONLY TO HIMSELF:

A subtle merger of fiction, autobiography: From his first novel to his final one, 50 years later, Saul Bellow was a keen observer of the world around him. (James Atlas, April 8, 2005, LA Times)

The work is done. The oeuvre is complete. The energetic production of nearly six decades has come to its inevitable end.

Great novelists have their signature styles and themes. The elaborate, suspensefully ramifying sentences of Henry James; the brooding cadences of Hawthorne: You can open a book of theirs to any page and identify their instantly distinctive voices.

Saul Bellow also possessed a distinctive voice, but what is so remarkable about his work is its tremendous versatility. From his two earliest novels, "Dangling Man" and "The Victim," to his last, "Ravelstein," written more than half a century later, Bellow's subject was himself.


He says that as if it were a good thing. Great literature is universal, not individualistic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 8, 2005 6:07 AM
Comments

And thus Bellow is the perfect examplar of 20th century literature.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 8, 2005 8:44 AM

Such is my accusation.

Posted by: oj at April 8, 2005 8:49 AM

Isn't every novel autobiographical? BTW, can anyone find the original source for that phrase....

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at April 8, 2005 9:07 AM

And thus why most of my fiction reading is genre fiction, which has actual plots and tends not to spend 500 pages on the existential pain of growing up gay in the suburbs.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 8, 2005 9:22 AM

Would appear that the concepts of "particular as it applies to the general" and "general as it applies to the particular" are foreign in these parts.

And might one wonder about how you score on the "tolerance for ambiguity" segment?...

Moreover, "Who is wise? He who learns from every man" might seem a bit pompous. But who knows? There may be something to it.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at April 8, 2005 10:17 AM

Ambiguity is a dodge.

Posted by: oj at April 8, 2005 10:28 AM

David once observed here that "OJ contains multitudes." There is ample evidence that OJ, at his core, is a good deal more like Saul Bellow than Gwen Stephanie.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 8, 2005 1:41 PM

Life is ambiguity.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 8, 2005 5:52 PM

Because we're incapable of clarity and prefer to dodge.

Posted by: oj at April 8, 2005 6:33 PM

What does that mean?

Posted by: David Cohen at April 9, 2005 11:37 AM

Would appear that the concepts of "particular as it applies to the general" and "general as it applies to the particular" are foreign in these parts.

Indeed, Barry. As per William Blake:

To see the universe in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity on the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

And I don't have time to explain the artistic purposes of ambiguity, but trust me, it's often a valuable thing in art.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 9, 2005 2:35 PM
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