Monday, February 4, 2008

IT ALL ADDS UP by Saul Bellow

Bellow's nonfiction collection It All Adds Up leaves me even more mystified by the knee-jerk awe with which St. Saul of Chicago's name is invoked by reviewers and critics. Apparently, in the world according to Bellow, 'it' all adds up to Neoconservatism, accompanied by the hoary claim of all ideologues (usually left implicit by Bellow) that one's own idelogy is not an ideology at all but a description of self-evident, unmediated reality. Why, oh why, do so many people think Bellow is so good? Am I missing something? Okay, I'll admit to liking Seize the Day and being slightly more than indifferent to Augie March, but Herzog? Henderson the Rain King?? Humboldt's Gift??? The Dean's December????? Ravelstein???????????????? You gotta be kidding... And as for Saul's nonfiction (the point of this post), anyone who considers the late neocon disinformation artist Allen Bloom a great political thinker has truly abandoned all critical discrimination and need no longer detain us (to use a favorite formulation of Harold Bloom). To end, I note in passing that after the obligatory funereal encomia a blanket of silence descended over Bellow's work. His posthumous reputation seems headed for a probably deserved oblivion. He's a period piece. The general consensus is, as so often, dead wrong.


Lane Eliezer said...

I'm reading "Mr Sammler's Planet" right now which won the National Book award (Bellow won it three times) and was a key piece in his winning of the Nobel. Yeah, his neo-conservatism is reprehensible, and some of the views of Sammler himself are ludicrous; but I believe that addressing the emotions that the novel evokes is the best way to read it. It's meant to piss you off; we are meant to disagree with the protagonist at some points. You can kind of compare it to "The Human Stain" as a rant against PC bullshit.

"Sammler's Planet" is pretty modernist and subjective and I think it's beautiful in that sense, despite being difficult to read.

Also, I'm a Jew and a sucker for Holocaust stories/refugees/Jewish fiction in general. I think his work will be read for a long time.

BRIAN OARD said...

@Robert Stone:
The relevance to Bellow's oeuvre of autocannibalism in DeLillo escapes me, so I assume you're an extremely well-read spambot trading under the name of a moderately well-regarded American literary novelist. Cheers.