Sincerely Saul Bellow
A thrilling cache of the late writer’s letters
This week, the New Yorker treats us to a selection of colorful letters from Saul Bellow to his fellow writers, including Bernard Malamud, Alfred Kazin, and John Cheever. A sample of choice moments:
To William Faulkner, responding to a defense of Ezra Pound: “What staggers me is that you and Mr. Steinbeck, who have dealt for so many years in words, should fail to understand the import of Ezra Pound’s plain and brutal statements about the ‘kikes’ leading the ‘goys’ to slaughter. Is this—from the ‘Pisan Cantos’—the stuff of poetry? It is a call to murder.”
To Philip Roth, in apology for some perceived slight from a People magazine interview: “If I had been interviewed by an angel for the Seraphim and Cherubim Weekly I’d have said, as I actually did say to the crooked little slut, that you were one of our very best and most interesting writers.”
And to Cynthia Ozick, a high compliment: “[A]lthough we have never discussed the Jewish question (or any other), and we would be bound to disagree (as Jewish discussants invariably do), it is certain that we would, at any rate, find each other Jewish enough.”
We also highly recommend the accompanying podcast, featuring Nextbook alum Blake Eskin interviewing Bellow’s wife Janis, who is responsible for having saved the letters—her husband, she says, would just as soon have “used them to make paper airplanes with.” Janis offers some insight into the mindset that led Saul to correspond extensively with those who found fault with his work: “He was never under the misapprehension that anything he wrote was finished.”
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.