Above all, he got from it a sense of what the imagination is up against. Having decided to become a writer when he was 10, Bellow trained himself not only in the public libraries but in the streets and pool halls, at prizefights and parks. Saul Bellow: A Biography of the Imagination. FB Twitter ellipsis More. Bellow could never distinguish between his art and his life; his themes, his purpose, his sense of worth, were all blended: he could never see the sharp distinction between his dark side his life and his bright side his art.
It may be that Bellow was fully cognizant of all these differences but used apathy as a shield against personal suffering - inhabiting a character to protect the performer or: method-acting as self-protection. Or it could be that the act eventually became the man. Either way the egoism is the same: the family still destroyed for art.
The answer is elusive and finally unanswered. Artists and suffering have been seen as concomitant partners — the former using the latter as a way to turn pain into joy, or in a more metaphysical sense, death into life.
Rephrased: while trying to turn death into life, he ignored the life that he was currently immersed in - like a man starving to death while cooking a four course meal, when a pizza is sitting in front of him on the table. But that can be the draw of art and its creation: a chance to be more than just banal and unsexy, a chance to communicate with millions of current and future souls all reaching out for a human connection and finding your work at the other end.
To Saul Bellow it seemed to be worth a failed family life. To others it may seem too steep a price to pay. As sure as the sun rises, it will some day have us: all of our books, music, history and heartache. But this is too far a reach for me when the low hanging fruit of requited love and personal fulfillment hangs ripe on the tree of life, just waiting for me to stand up and seize it. View all 4 comments. Mar 09, Russel Henderson rated it really liked it.
A fine, personal biography that was not unsympathetic to its subject but did not shy away from his personal or professional shortcomings. The bio provides a comprehensive, perhaps too comprehensive, look at the personal and particularly intimate life of its subject, but as a literary biography it successfully explicates themes in and across novels and contextualizes them within the American literary scene, past and contemporary.
If I could tender a criticism, aside from the excessive dwelling on A fine, personal biography that was not unsympathetic to its subject but did not shy away from his personal or professional shortcomings. If I could tender a criticism, aside from the excessive dwelling on Bellow's sex life, it would be the relatively short shrift afforded his nonfiction works, but it's a tepid criticism.
I came away thinking somewhat less of Bellow the man but with a greater appreciation for Bellow the writer, who wrote relevant, insightful fiction for more than half a century. Mar 05, Tom rated it really liked it. It would not surprise me in the least to learn that James Atlas ever wondered if he was out of his mind, and whether that was all right with him, in the years that he labored to produce this splendid biography of arguably the most accomplished and the most acclaimed author in American literary history.
For, as it turns out, Bellow, a three-time National Book Award recipient, Pulitzer prize winner, and Nobel laureate — when he was not practicing his self-imposed discipline of writing for several hours nearly every morning of his long life — was spending an inordinate amount of the rest of his time embroiled in a seemingly endless stream of bruising conflicts with friends, lovers, ex-wives, lawyers, critics, colleagues, agents, publishers, reviewers, grant committees, and university administrators.
The unenviable task of reading through the voluminous trove of contentious correspondence left in the wake of all these disputes could easily have had the biographer questioning, Herzog-like, the condition of his own mind. Fortunately for us, Atlas not only stayed in complete control of his mental faculties, but he has also stayed completely in control of his narrative from beginning to end of this nearly page opus. In keeping with this balanced approach, Atlas misses no opportunity to praise Bellow for his many admirable traits — his deep affection for his sons, his diligent work habits, his unstinting generosity in giving support and direction to aspiring young writers, his lifelong devotion to his childhood friends, his frequent brilliance as a college lecturer, and his constant love for the father and brothers who had so often and so hurtfully disparaged his choice of career until late in life, when the awards and the cash finally started flowing in.
The portrait Atlas paints of Bellow strikes me as faithful to the facts and fair to the man.
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Nevertheless, Atlas has been harshly judged by some reviewers as having been overly harsh to his subject. Perhaps we ought to. For myself, I applaud the messenger. Could any reader want more from a biography? And could Bellow who was still alive when this book was published have wanted any more from a biographer? Who better to attempt this, I thought, than one who had immersed himself so thoroughly in the Bellovian life, lore, and literary output? It turns out that Atlas knew who better. In his deeply touching closing paragraph, he recounts a scene from a BBC television program, in which Bellow, at age 82, is being interviewed by the novelist Martin Amis in a Boston coffee shop.
Bellow by James Atlas: | unohytuwaneh.gq: Books
Which, thanks in no small way to Atlas, will probably be sooner rather than later. View 2 comments. Jun 04, Jesse K rated it liked it Shelves: read This is definitely not going to end up being the definitive Ellmannesque biography of Bellow, but it was passable, in some regards. It gave the reader a skeletal outline of Bellow's life and works, and served well as a key to who was based on who in his novels, for the sort of people who like that thing. However, I have four complaints, two of which were likely out of the authors control, one of which could barely be helped, and the last of which was a rather unfortunate tactical error: 1 Ther This is definitely not going to end up being the definitive Ellmannesque biography of Bellow, but it was passable, in some regards.
However, I have four complaints, two of which were likely out of the authors control, one of which could barely be helped, and the last of which was a rather unfortunate tactical error: 1 There really wasn't that much personal information, 2 putting out a bio before someone is dead is kind of corny, especially when they end up dying a mere 5 years later, since it becomes incomplete the moment it is published, 3 having just read the letters before really highlighted how much the author over?
Atlas's Bellow: masterpiece or muck-raking?
All that said, I'm still glad that I read it. Jun 16, Yeti rated it really liked it. A brilliant biography that provides valuable insight into the complex writer. A great book that would prove an invaluable resource to anyone who is hesitant to try reading Bellow's own work.
Lucid, intelligent and enlightening. Shawn rated it liked it Sep 26, James Chafin rated it liked it Jan 01, Will Shadbolt rated it it was amazing Feb 09, Mark Essig rated it liked it May 04, Christina rated it really liked it Nov 25, Carmela rated it it was amazing Jun 23, Larry Watson rated it really liked it Mar 02, David rated it really liked it Jul 06, Sandra Riley rated it really liked it Feb 18, John Darby rated it really liked it May 03, Nan Rabinowitz rated it it was amazing Apr 03, Alex Pieske rated it it was amazing Aug 01, In a preface, Atlas, who is also the editor of the Penguin Lives biography series, describes the most discerning biographies as those "imbued with a profound sympathy for their subject's foibles and failings--imbued, to put it plainly, with love.
But his criticism of Bellow the man is always measured, and it has the nice effect of placing some of the more unsavory elements of Bellow's fiction in a kind of context. Bellow might not inspire a complete rethinking of Bellow's work, but it's a compelling reminder of its many pleasures. Visit Seller's Storefront. Our rating system: 1. Fine; 2.
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