09 June, 2015

Saul Bellow First Edition Collection


--- "The purer, subtler, higher activities have not succumbed to fury or to nonsense. Not yet. Books continue to be written and read."

To celebrate the centenary of Saul Bellow’s birthday on 10 June 2015, here’s my current collection of his first editions, solely of novels. Of them, I’m missing four: his earliest work, Dangling Man and The Victim, and later compositions, A Theft and The Bellarosa Connection.


Bellow was an accomplished writer, having won the literature/fiction prizes for the Nobel, the Pulitzer, and the National Book Award (three times). Unlike Pynchon’s dense and sprawling novels, Bellow is economical on characters and events, focusing instead on crafting a deep and intimate protagonist-reader relationship. His protagonists, invariably male, often wrestle with their own Chekhovian Lament of (missed) connections and (lost) opportunities, which Augie March squandered in his desultory pursue of a better fate, and which Wilhelm Adler obliterated in his callow folly. Moses Herzog, a fugitive of emotions, broke relational ties that matter and ruined opportunities to mend them. Charlie Citrine made the right connections and seized the opportunities that matter, pecuniarily, only to (nearly) lose himself in the process. 

As the Swedish Academy noted, Bellow's hero is a man with no foothold, but also "a man who keeps on trying to find a foothold during his wanderings in our tottering world."

Of Bellow's prose, it suffice to say that James Wood judged all modern prose by his. The profundity of his eloquent, often lyrical, writing reminds me of Von Humboldt Fleisher, the erudite poet in "Humboldt's Gift". Bellow's prose was Platonic. "By Platonic I refer to an original perfection by which all human beings long to return." Yes, Bellow's words were impeccable. And "to follow his intricate conversation you had to know his basic texts." I know of two authors of these texts: Henry James and Marcel Proust.
For Bellow's first editions, the First Edition Points has detailed information for four of his prize winners. I've supplemented with postings on 

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