A few years back (quite a few), I picked up a copy of Esquire at an airport news stand. I think I was in Charleston, but it might have been Atlanta. It was hot. The issue contained the best American short stories of the year–judged by whom, I do not know.
Whoever they were, they got one right.
I wish I remembered the story or the name of the Saul Bellow entry. I do not. It was a fantastic story that I read twice on the flight to St. Louis. I read it first, because Bellow’s was the most recognizable name. I read it last to make sure that the Bellow story was really that much better than all the others combined.
Whether it’s testimony to my thick-headedness or to Saul Bellow’s excellent writing, I have no idea what his politics were. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. I know that he was a friend to the author of the 1980s classic, “The Closing of the American Mind.” I know that, like Hunter S. Thompson, he knew which keys to hit. I know that in his 70s he wrote a better short story than the hungry, over-educated English majors who were runners-up in Esquire’s 1988 contest. (I think it was 1988.) I know life on earth is better because Saul Bellow wrote about it.
If you’ve never read anything by Bellow, pick up “Herzog.” It’ll be worth your time and money.
May he rest in peace.
I decided to learn more about the man whose writing I have so enjoyed. I learned that Saul Bellow was a liberal who made the mistake of giving a speech 3 degrees off from the liberal dogma of the day in San Francisco in 1968. He was heckled and booed off the stage. According to his semi-official website, he retreated into a “neo-conservative reactionary.”
Perhaps I like Bellow for the same reason I like John Dos Passos, Whittiker Chambers, and T. S. Elliot–liberals or communists who, having deigned to think for themselves on some trivial matter, met the hatred of liberalism. They didn’t then “become” conservatives–they became honest unto themselves.
Liberalism is doctrinaire and hate-filled. Everything else is considered conservatism.
I choose everything else. So did Mr. Bellow.
The Complete Review has links to other obits and promises more, which I look forward to reading.
Chris Holmes has personal reflections.
Lizzy Lizzard Lips admits she’s not supposed to care about Bellow, but does.
Sam posts one of Mr. Bellow’s favorite poems, and it might become one of yours.