Bellow’s People: How Saul Bellow Made Life Into Art (W.W. Norton), by David Mikics
Saul Bellow wrote characters as vividly memorable as any author. In Bellow’s People, David Mikics explores the context, origins and objectives of Bellow’s work. He was part of a wave of post-World War II Jewish-American authors who set forth to write the Great American Novel. They dominated the literary field, bringing unique insider-outsider perspectives to the anxieties of an era of rising consumerism, loosening sexual mores, concern over civil rights and paranoia over the Bomb and Communist subversion.
A University of Houston English professor, Mikics finds the roots of Bellow in his love of Yiddish, whose idioms he transposed into English prose; his family and, in adult life, the literary-intellectual peers who were clay to be modeled into characters. Bellow’s stories were laced with the comedy of human personality as embodied in wrinkles, furrowed brows and awkward gaits. He was Dickensian for his morally descriptive detail. Bellow also swam upstream against the tide of intellectualism in serious literature. He wanted to free art from the prison of ideas and depict the people inhabiting his pages with the fullness and contradiction of life.