Saul Bellow

I have very few lit­er­ary heroes, but Saul Bel­low is one of them. Since I read Hen­der­son the Rain King in high school, I’ve admired his wit, and abil­i­ty to charge the most ordi­nary among us with great thoughts and pur­pose. His char­ac­ters did­n’t always suc­ceed in life, but they were cast with such iron­ic humor, that it hard­ly mattered.

I was sor­ry to hear that he died yes­ter­day, at the age of 89.

I nev­er got to meet him when I was a stu­dent at BU, how­ev­er I did help res­cue a man­u­script of his from his mis­be­hav­ing com­put­er, when I worked as as a stu­dent help-desk tech­ni­cian — much to the relief of his Grad student.

Though he is well known and wide­ly read, his rep­u­ta­tion in the lit­er­ary world is almost cult-like. Philip Roth said yesterday:

The back­bone of 20th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture has been pro­vid­ed by two nov­el­ists: William Faulkn­er and Saul Bel­low… Togeth­er they are the Melville, Hawthorne, and Twain of the 20th century.

And, a cou­ple of years ago, anoth­er writer that I admire, Mar­tin Amis, went on NPR’s The Con­nec­tion to dis­cuss Bel­low, and his legacy.

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