Augie Old: The Last Man

Saul Bellow's It All Adds Up is his first (and given his age probably his last) collection of nonfiction. Mr. Bellow is close to 80. His introduction suggests a mood of self-reformation, not solemn but tending toward testament. He is said to be at work on a novel. He has outlived most of his generation, still cuts an agreeable and admirable figure among those pretending to literary accomplishment, and one wants to wish him well. He is now older than the Good Grey Poet and still hard at work.

The book consists of a redeployment of elegantly wrought magazine pieces, several self-ruminations called interviews, and shorter and longer memoirs, essays, and public lectures, arranged and cropped for maximum impact and concision though still long for my taste, taking in a considerable span of tumultuous life and literary history. If the life appears to me an exceptionally lucky one (and one gets the impression that Bellow may not appreciate just how lucky), then the history strikes me as ugly. Literature has been swallowed by "political statement," ethnomania applauded into a ubiquitous vice, general culture (which in any case hardly exists) pumped up into the white elephant one got stuck with at the rummage sale of a nasty past; while any pretense to a settled outlook, a sense of moral splendor, or even mere talent is nowadays subjected to derision.

Bellow speaks with authority, having survived best-sellerdom,...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here