Saul Bellow: Letters by Benjamin Taylor - review by Jay Parini

Jay Parini

‘I Am in My Element And I Defy You…’

Saul Bellow: Letters

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‘I’ve never enjoyed writing letters,’ admits Saul Bellow to Ralph Ellison in an undated letter from the mid-1950s. ‘There is some wickedness here and I ought to root it up’, he continues, ‘even if it should mean going to an analyst.’ For a man who hated writing letters and who seems to have dreaded looking in the mirror, there is something contradictory about this volume, as he wrote countless letters and, overall, offers a substantial critique of self.

Bellow, one of the great American novelists of his generation, revealed himself quite vividly in his fiction. His work, from Dangling Man (1944) through The Adventures of Augie March (1953), Herzog (1964), Humboldt’s Gift (1975) and Ravelstein (2000), drew closely on the circumstances of his life, if not

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