Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bellow's Dreams

Via Mark Sarvas: a new collection of Saul Bellow's letters, out in November.

And a fascinating Guardian interview of Bellow's widow here, including extracts of letters.

I'll be buying and chewing on this collection while it's still warm from the shelf.  A sample:
To Martin Amis, 30 December 1990, Schomberg, Ontario
The likes of us should quit politics and stick to dreams. It gave me pleasure to hear that I recently figured in a dream of yours positively. I recently dreamt:
Dream I: I identify Tolstoy as the driver of a beat-up white van on the expressway. I ask the old guy at the wheel of this crumbling van what he can do to keep his flapping door from banging against the finish of my car. When he leans over to the right I see that he is none other than Leo Tolstoy, beard and all. He invites me to follow him off the expressway to a tavern and he says, "I want you to have this jar of pickled herring." He adds, "I knew your brother." At the mention of my late brother I burst into tears.
Dream II: A secret remedy for a deadly disease is inscribed in Chinese characters on my penis. For this reason my life is in danger. My son Greg is guarding me in a California hideout from the agents of a pharmaceutical company, etc.
Dream III: I find myself in a library filled with unknown masterpieces by Henry James, Joseph Conrad and others. Titles I have never seen mentioned anywhere. In shock and joy I open a volume by Conrad and read several pages, sentence after sentence after sentence in the old boy's best style, more brilliant than ever. "Why in the hell was I never told about this?" I ask. Certain parties have been holding out on us. I am indignant.
If I don't share his premise - that writers ought to stay away from politics - I'm still sucked in by the way Bellow fleshes it out.  His usual marriage of humour, pathology and erudition.

(Photo: Truman Moore/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images, courtesy of The Atlantic)

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