Apologies for returning to the subject so soon, but Slate's round-up on Saul Bellow is absolutely not to be missed, even if you're lukewarm about the novels. Philip Gourevitch sums up my ambivalence about Bellow's alpha-intellect ("I've never been able to make it all the way through The Adventures of Augie March, but I've read those totemic first pages over and over and over, and loved them every time.") Clive James, Stanley Crouch and James Atlas are excellent too.

Forgive me for quoting at such length from Katie Roiphe, but her thoughts on Bellow's women definitely go against conventional wisdom:

The Saul Bellow woman is infinitely generous, colorful, voluptuous, pliable, passionate, beautiful, full of appetite, slightly exotic, or actually foreign, with a great appreciation of the intellect, and a penchant for lingerie (there is also the manipulative, intelligent, malevolent ex-wife, but I won't write about her here). It is a very great power Bellow attributes to simple feminine ways: a shrimp dinner well cooked, the ability to reassure, sexual warmth, a massage, and this is what is interesting. That men as brilliant and complicated as a Herzog, or a Charlie Citrine, would be soothed and succored by such small gestures of traditional and predictable femininity.

It is true that Bellow's Renatas and Ramonas do not necessarily feel like "fully realized characters," but that is not the point of them. The Saul Bellow woman is, in some way, an outdated figure, a voluptuous figure of the past; she is not, certainly, fashionable now, not politically correct; but I believe she still lurks in the heart of the Herzogs that walk among us, and it would be a mistake to dismiss or underestimate her. Bellow tapped into something deep and persistent: what female warmth means to men, the tiny things that women do to save them; he showed how fragile and boyish and needy even the most arrogant, brilliant men are at core.

|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/04/more-s.html|||4/09/2005 10:54:00 am|||||||||