O’Hagan on Bellow’s biography
Over at the LRB, Andrew O’Hagan has written a review on The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune, 1915-64 by Zachary Leader.
“Bellow had a dark talent for making relationships disagreeable. He disported himself with friends the way one might with enemies, and often, in these years, he appears riddled with enmity, paranoid, full of doubts about loyalty and fears of rivalry.”
“If he hadn’t possessed such a sublime way with metaphor, one might struggle to ignore the fact that he was probably the biggest pain in the arse in the history of American letters
“‘What matters,’ Bellow wrote to Peltz when he complained of being used, is that good things get written …”
I’d like to take issue with Bellow’s assertion to his friend Peltz as it’s such a complete crock of shite and sadly very much the excuse many asshole artists (& beyond) employ to be similarly indulged and excused for being plate glass arses.
Beckett wrote “good things” certainly far superior things to anything Bellow wrote. He did not behave like a total asshole in the process. His letters and biography attest to this fact. Far more important than “good things get written” is treating your fellow human being with some modicum of respect and dignity. For that will follow you just as deeply into the grave as any stack of books you leave behind you.
I think it’s safe to say that Bellow has present day successors and current, active competition vying for the position of “biggest pain in the arse in letters”.