At eighty-five, Saul Bellow is the Grand Old Man of American Letters. A recent Sunday Times poll of his peers established him as ‘greatest living novelist’, while an even more imposing US survey identified him as one of the hundred most important people in the world. He has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pulitzer and just about every other prize in sight, and seems to have taught at most major universities in the Anglo-Saxon world. His savage jousts with America’s legion of PC bien pensants are legendary and he has become, if anything, even more prolific in his old age. He deserves a good biography and here he gets one.
I ought to declare an intellectual interest straight away. The entire canon of ‘postmodernist’, magic realist, plotless and ludic fiction seems to me to be wildly overrated, and I would rather have Melvyn Bragg’s The Soldier’s Return than the entire corpus of Martin Amis, Julian Barnes et al. It follows