Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Saul Bellow, RIP

Saul Bellow is dead at 89 years old.*

And Arthur Miller died so recently...

They were two writers who elevated the common struggle to the heights of classical tragedy. There really isn't much more to say than that -- except that it was a towering achievement.

There's the old, probably apocryphal anecdote about my hero F. Scott Fitzgerald saying that the rich live are different than you and I and Hemingway retorting that "yes, they have more money." And if you dig through the literature, look at the early tragedies from the gold age Greeks to Shakespeare to Thomas Kyd, you really only see tragedies about people who were less than powerful in Cervantes' Don Quixote. And then, we had Mark Twain's tragicomic work. And then we had (in no order at all) Hemingway, Arthur Miller, Saul Bellow and the rest of modern American literature (and even, in that, F. Scott, whose characters were never quite rich enough...)

This isn't a post about proletarian fiction of any such nonsense. It's about the rise of every day life to the level of myth. Because, in the end, myth and mundanity are rather intricately linked.

Thanks for everything, Saul Bellow. Thanks for it all.

*In this article, Bellow's work is set out in contrast to Hemingway's. I see the point, but I don't quite agree -- the struggle of a man against a mountain or game fish and the struggle of a man against a stifling social world hve more in common than they do in difference.


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