March 17, 2011 § 4 Comments

This picture is generally unrelated to anything in this post.

I think I like things like this because, at my worst, I am super nosy. In the little clip from All Things Considered, Robert Siegel suggests Bellow’s letters are a look, through “least polished” work, into his personality–but does Saul Bellow really write to John Cheever as just buds? I’m more inclined to think no, he knows he’s Saul Bellow writing to John Cheever and that many people who aren’t John Cheever will read the letter someday. I can only imagine that at some point in Saul Bellow’s life he realized he was Saul Bellow and knew that when he, Saul Bellow, died people would probably be curious about the things he left behind. On the other end of the spectrum, rather than “combining salad oil and moral philosophy,” my book of letters would primarily combine pictures of cute, fat, baby animals with the word “SQUEEEESH.”

http://www.npr.org/2011/03/15/134432921/saul-bellows-guide-to-good-old-fashioned-letters#134456881

J

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§ 4 Responses to

  • M says:

    Don’t overestimate the great Mr. Bellow. I bet there were some “sqeeesh” letters and plenty of “umm, you know, I thought your stories were good because, well, like, I liked them, right?” epiphanies, all edited out of existence.

    His letters remind of me reading Susan Sontag’s journals. Even the ones from her late adolescence scream awareness that she was writing them for an imagined posterity. But that’s part of genius, I guess?, the early knowledge that you were meant for a large life. My middle school diary was more “I think I must have been adopted. I need a hair cut. Periods suck, man.” This may explain why I am NOT in fact Susan Sontag.

  • J. says:

    Periods do suck. It’s a very salient point and is a great comment on gender politics. Or something.

  • Is it part of genius, or is it necessary that to have a big, bright ol’ future you need to believe it will happen?

    We studied letter-writing as a genre and I loved it because letters always present a different version of you depending on your audience. Not a false one, just different.

  • M says:

    We talked about it, but I wanted to honor your comment with a comment, Colleen. It’s fascinating how letters present different versions of people, and in such an unstudied way. We are instinctive chameleons that way, and those of us who aren’t make for lame letter-writers.

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