Saul Bellow

“This is a superb biography. Yet it begins in the most inauspicious place. It is 1964, and Saul Bellow has just become absurdly rich and famous. His struggle, doubt, grit, immigrant story, artistic dreams — all were told in Volume 1 of Zachary Leader’s biography, To Fame and Fortune. Here in Volume 2, Love and Strifethe novel Herzog is published on the very first page and reaches “No. 1 on the best-seller list, supplanting John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold.” Never again would Bellow, about to turn 50 years old, lack for wealth, power, awards or flunkies to stand by him, ready to take his coat and do his bidding. The temptation for someone in his position was to become an insufferable, spoiled monster.”

The New York Times

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[Overheard in a secondhand bookshop.]

— I must say, I have a bone to pick.
— Oh yes? What’s that?
— Well, you see, I’m looking for your John Le Carré titles and you don’t seem to have a single work! I must say I’m very surprised. Very surprised.
— I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t had any luck finding him. Did you try our general fiction?
— Yes, I did. I tried the general fiction. Nothing.
— And I’m guessing you were looking in our thrillers section?
— I was, I was. He is undergoing something of a renaissance at the moment. Didn’t you know that? I’m surprised that you don’t have his work on display. Front and centre!
— Yes, well, I’m afraid that when a writer is popular we don’t tend to get many sellers approaching us with their books. They hold on to them. Sometimes they reread them, sometimes they think they are more valuable than they are. We tend to get offers when the author is no longer in the spotlight, strange as it might sound.
— I suppose I could wander into a general bookshop, but I’m poor, you understand. Don’t you have a spy section? An area for spy stories and the like? It’s a very popular genre, you know.
— I’m afraid we don’t have a spy section here.
— Well, that’s an oversight if you ask me. It really is a very popular genre.
— Have you tried looking for Le Carré in the crime section? Perhaps he’s incognito.
— No, I hadn’t thought of that. Let me go and see.

A few interesting pieces have caught my eye over the last few days. Not least among them is David Collard‘s piece, ‘Déjà lu: On the pleasures of rereading’ from one of the April issues of the TLS:

“Apart from books I’ve conscientiously read and re-read for review purposes, the novels I’ve read several times include Beckett’s Murphy, Isherwood‘s Prater VioletMoby-DickMadame Bovary, Lolita and perhaps a dozen others.”

Books2A more recent issue of the TLS has published an edited version of an article written by Virginia Woolf on Henry David Thoreau back in 1917 • New York’s Tyrant Books has published three (very) short stories by Lydia Davis • Electric Literature offers ’10 Great Novels of the Rural’, courtesy of Michelle Hoover • John Lé Carre discusses why we should learn German to help build bridges in today’s political climate • Open Culture shares 1977 footage of a young David Lynch discussing his iconic début feature length film, Eraserhead • The Wire reports that Robert Mugge’s 1986 film Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus is to be rereleased on BluRay and DVD

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John le Carré

I am always fascinating to hear about the daily rituals of writers and creative people. Readers of this site might be familiar with previous posts on walking and improvisation, thinking, or Kierkegaard’s fondness for daily walks. And so, whenever I hear about writers who are also keen walkers, I’m always curious to know more.

This morning I read that the British spy novelist John le Carré, author of The Night Manager (1993) and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974) is one such writer. He talks of the pleasure he takes in perambulations around London, of finding inspiration in trains and cafés, and his preference for ‘drawing the words’ over using typewriters and word processors: (more…)