full-length non-fiction I mostly review.
I’m a great admirer of Bellow’s fiction but honour him on the principle adopted by Nicholson Baker in U and I of only having read a selection of his novels, topped by Augie March and Seize the Day.
The essays are stunning. Every one has a line somewhere that makes you want to copy
it out and proclaim it to the world.
“In our world it seems that as soon as a clear need appears it is met falsely. It
becomes a new occasion for exploitation.”
“...had the old understanding of reality been based on the threat of hunger and on the continual necessity for hard labor?”
“What you invest your energy and enthusiasm in when you are young you can never bring yourself to give up altogether.”
Some of his pronouncements on the prodigious economic success of America now read ironically but it is worth being reminded that our productive capacity has not diminished– we know how to make all the stuff we need (if not quite how best to do it in a low-carbon way) but we are paralysed by a financial system gone wrong that no one knows how to rein in. As was the case, of course, in the world of the Great Depression that formed Bellow’s worldview.