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4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  168 ratings  ·  19 reviews
A never-before-published collection of letters-an intimate self- portrait as well as the portrait of a century.

Saul Bellow was a dedicated correspondent until a couple of years before his death, and his letters, spanning eight decades, show us a twentieth-century life in all its richness and complexity. Friends, lovers, wives, colleagues, and fans all cross these pages.
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published November 4th 2010 by Viking Adult (first published October 25th 2010)
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I gave this an extra star because I am neither a fan of Bellow, nor a reader of letters, and if you are both, certainly you couldn't go wrong with this. (In fact, if you're either or both, you can assume five stars.)

But even without an initial interest in the subject or form, I found this fairly absorbing. Bellow was a smart, entertaining, and supremely engaged man, and what I found most remarkable was how effected I was as those qualities faded, at the dimming of the light toward the end of th

Humane, thoughtful, streetwise (hate that word but here it fits), curious, sincere, decent, honest and witty.

He'd have been a great guy to have had as a neighbor. Of how many great authors could this be said?
Harold Griffin
After Herzog and Augie, I was really looking forward to this volume and made it my one and only request last Christmas. So far I'm disappointed. I've found some of the letters moderately interesting, but hardly luminous. Maybe I'm just not an academic, maybe I'm not big on the lives of authors, maybe it's just a matter of not being close enough to, or distant enough from, Bellow's time and culture. Suffice it to say that
I like the author less after what I've read, and have had a hard time
Absolutely wonderful. A much more complex picture of the man than we have gotten from anecdotes and even biographies. Every page offers the same vibrancy and delight to be found in Bellow's fiction. My one quibble is that I would have liked more than the fairly meager amount of annotation. Sometimes people aren't identified or events referred to aren't explained. I took James Atlas's biography out of the library to read alongside. That helped with some IDs, but Atlas manages to see every act of ...more
I read these letters in small sips and after nearly two years have finally come to the bottom of the cup. His genius is as evident in his letters as in his novels and his wonderful--sometimes hateful--arrogance shines throughout. I revere his honesty (though it can sting hard) and he pulls no punches, God bless him. I wish there was more.
Fred R
I have either allowed him too much say-so over my thoughts, or too little. I would like to have done with him, having taken his measure according to my own poor mind, diagnosed strengths and weaknesses, but without him I am not sure I will maintain my faith.

The letters are gorgeous, of course, although the media surrounding their publication has made it quite clear to me that he will not be remembered. He was, unfortunately for him, unsuited to writing novels at a time when novels were exactly w
Blog on Books
Despite his Canadian origins (and Russian heritage), Saul Bellow was widely viewed as one of the leading voices on the American condition. His novels were among the top of his generation as well as the stuff of many awards including the Nobel Prize in literature. “Letters,” painstakingly assembled by Benjamin Taylor and spanning seventy years of documents, covers the long life and times of the prolific writer and clearly serves as the autobiography Bellow never wrote.
In it, there resides a remar
Saul Bellow was a genius at what he did. I don't think his literary skills were supreme, but his intellect and drive to succeed turned his works of art into world class creations. That most of Bellow's novels are ignored today tells me more about fashion than it does about the quality of his work, which was superb.

In these letters, we get to see Bellow's intellect, passion and will to succeed in full bloom and then, as he ages, in sad decline. These letters provide a fantastic window into the li
Kate Walker
This was very interesting to read right after finishing his early novel, The Victim. He describes the process of trying to get the book into bookstores, which proves difficult. This was a time long before his reputation was so renowned, and there is something very touching about the vulnerability and uncertainty he shares with his friends in so many letters. There are stacks and stacks of letters to his friends. They are emotionally generous, honest, and often very funny. So much energy and love ...more
James Murphy
The attraction of literary letters is what's passed between writers. They're mines of information about individual craft and a writer's works. Saul Bellow wrote relatively few such letters. Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, and Martin Amis are among the handful of fellow authors Bellow wrote, meaning that by far most of these letters are to friends, family, and other acquaintances who don't share a literary life with him. That's the main reason this book is less compelling than I'd expected. Some of t ...more
Dan Dubois
Brilliant anthology, very complete, shows a struggling Belllow scrabbling to make ends meet, praising, vilifying, crabbing about colleagues, wives, editors, his father, award committees, exposes his scheming to cobble together enough money to live on in the early years. His account of the writing 'Augie March', his confidence about the novel's possibilities, his scheming to find a publisher and venue and sense of vindication at its success are especially affecting.
An epic novel of written correspondence, except the whole thing is true. Letters is a revealing walk through Bellow's long life that offers many insights into the often herculean struggles a writer must go through to realize his art.
"Only some of us have had the sense to realize that the man we bring forth has no richness compared with the man who really exists, thickened, fed and fattened by all the facts about him, all of his history."
A sort of autobiography through letters. Wonderful. Wonderfully frank and vulnerable, cantankerous, witty, hurtful, loving—all of life is here, and in such choice words.
Kunal Jalali
At once discerning and occasionally revealing the other shades of this mercurial author. As a reader, we tend to see the more humane face of Moses Herzog.
Nov 09, 2010 Anittah marked it as to-read
Richard Anderson
Wonderful material! Leads us back to the novels and stories.
Mar 16, 2011 Andrea marked it as to-read
recommended by "you must read this!" on NPR Mar 2011
Feb 23, 2013 Velvetink marked it as to-read
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Saul Bellow was born in Lachine, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal, in 1915, and was raised in Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago, received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937, with honors in sociology and anthropology, did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, and served in the Merchant Marine during World War II.

Mr. Bellow's first novel, Dangling Man, was pu
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