Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

"You write and then you erase. You call that a profession?" -- Saul Bellow, 1915-2005

A Nobel prize, a Pulitzer Prize, a couple of National Book Awards, and so on. I call that a profession.

2005 has been a tough year for great men of American letters. Miller, Thompson, and now Bellow.

There are authors who are easy to read. There are authors who present more difficulty. And among both classes, there are worthy and unworthy authors, albeit in disparate proportion. I have always enjoyed the difficult authors; when I want easy, I rent a movie.

Few have presented more difficulty for me, as reader, than Bellow, whose ouevre I slowly wade through. He was an autodidact possessed of great wit and intelligence, and his novels, those that I've read, hum electric with descriptive mastery and intellectual rapacity and insight.

Even as recently as Ravelstein, his tribute (of sorts) to the intellectual and friend Alan Bloom, Bellow, writing well into his eighties, exemplified the very best of his craft, demonstrating in deeds what so many of late have attempted to contradict in words: that the novel is very much alive, and remains the supreme medium for deep introspection regarding humanity's place in, or on, the world.

I would have been foolish to expect more from him, and I didn't, so we've lost a man, not his work. And I would be even more foolish to attempt to relate in more detail all that he contributed to American literature; others will do a far more credible job. But I believe I'll pick up Herzog this week for a second reading, to see if the intellectual heebie-jeebies it gave me upon my first reading have receded with the half-decade that has passed since.

I'm not counting on it. But then I would be disappointed if it had receded. If I didn't want the heebie jeebies -- you guessed it -- I'd rent a movie.


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