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This is a Goodreads First Reads review.This is an interesting compilation of articles showcasing a tremendous literary light Bellow covered a range of different subjects from cityscapes to character profiles to himself, both in the past and his current self Most are fairly short but none are tedious and all are intriguing. Bellow s been hard done by because the humanist notions that he espouses have become so clearly out of date His books are hard to read today because of misogyny the most apparent thing and racism less apparent, perhaps, but still visible depending on which texts you pick In this bunch of essays a really large collection we get to see Bellow s extraordinary struggles to reconcile ideas with which we are still struggling The divide between high and low culture, the relation between Bellow s been hard done by because the humanist notions that he espouses have become so clearly out of date His books are hard to read today because of misogyny the most apparent thing and racism less apparent, perhaps, but still visible depending on which texts you pick In this bunch of essays a really large collection we get to see Bellow s extraordinary struggles to reconcile ideas with which we are still struggling The divide between high and low culture, the relation between the aesthetic and lived reality, the reaction to modernism, the reaction to late capitalism It is a struggle you can feel the tension as Bellow attempts to mix these unmixable things together One might view his humanism as an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable Either way it s very productive struggle, especially if one looks at Bellow s current unpopularity and Stoner s John Williams s popularity Both conservative, but Williams is nowhere as ambivalent or ambitious as Bellow, and doesn t try to reconcile anything That tells you something doesn t it Writing my chapter on Bellow will be interesting Ci sono troppe cose a cui pensare un impresa disperata le tipologie di preparazione specifica richieste sono infinite In fatto di elettronica, economia, analisi sociale, storia, psicologia e politica internazionale la maggior parte di noi, data l oceanica e proliferante complessit delle cose, rimane paralizzata dalla semplice idea di assumersi una qualunque responsabilit Ed questo a rendere tanto attraenti le opinioni preconfezionate 1992 Fortunatamente, tra la vita come la viviamo e Ci sono troppe cose a cui pensare un impresa disperata le tipologie di preparazione specifica richieste sono infinite In fatto di elettronica, economia, analisi sociale, storia, psicologia e politica internazionale la maggior parte di noi, data l oceanica e proliferante complessit delle cose, rimane paralizzata dalla semplice idea di assumersi una qualunque responsabilit Ed questo a rendere tanto attraenti le opinioni preconfezionate 1992 Fortunatamente, tra la vita come la viviamo e come diciamo di viverla esiste ancora una differenza Possediamo un intelligenza segreta, che ci aiuta Possediamo una discreta capacit di riconoscere la falsit dei postulati pi diffusi e accettati Ci sono delle intuizioni metafisiche e morali che ci allontanano da ci che ci stato insegnato, dal patrimonio di conoscenze che abbiamo accumulato Condivido in questo la posizione di un dotto tedesco il quale, quando i suoi studenti gli dissero che le sue teorie non corrispondevano ai fatti, rispose Tanto peggio per i fatti 1978 A volte mi diverto a prendere in giro gli americani colti Herzog, per esempio, era stato concepito come un romanzo comico un dottore di ricerca di un ottima universit americana ha un autentico crollo quando la moglie lo lascia per un altro uomo Viene colto da una frenesia epistolare, e si mette a scrivere delle lettere dolorose, feroci, ironiche Volevo che il romanzo dimostrasse quante poche risorse la cultura superiore potesse offrire a un uomo che si trovi in serie difficolt Alla fine, il protagonista si rende conto che nessuno gli ha mai insegnato come comportarsi nella vita All universit , chi gli ha mai spiegato come fare i conti con i propri desideri erotici, con le donne, con le questioni di famiglia Per usare una metafora presa dal mondo dei giochi, torna alla casella numero uno ovvero, come mi dicevo scrivendo il libro, a un punto di equilibrio originario 1987 Quando mi chiedono un opinione su alcune questioni particolarmente complesse dei nostri tempi, a volte rispondo dichiarando che sono a favore delle cose buone, e contro quelle cattive Non tutti trovano la battuta divertente Molti ne deducono che mi considero troppo buono per questo mondo che, senza alcun dubbio, un mondo dominato dalle questioni pubbliche 1992 I started this book as a preparation to reading the new critical biography of Bellow that came out earlier this year I have read Bellow s work from time to time and enjoyed it, most recently Ravelstein Bellow always struck me as a curious mix of intellectual vigor, penetrating insight, cynicism, and grumpiness This was not always a positive reaction This book collects about 60 pieces up until close to his death These pieces range from short reviews and commentary to longer essays on politic I started this book as a preparation to reading the new critical biography of Bellow that came out earlier this year I have read Bellow s work from time to time and enjoyed it, most recently Ravelstein Bellow always struck me as a curious mix of intellectual vigor, penetrating insight, cynicism, and grumpiness This was not always a positive reaction This book collects about 60 pieces up until close to his death These pieces range from short reviews and commentary to longer essays on politics, intellectual life, the state of literary life across the century, life in Chicago, life as an American Jewish writer, and lots of other topics This collection seemed like a good preparation for approaching the biography The book is superb and I am glad to have read it Bellow is sharp and interesting throughout His critical skill remains throughout and his cynicism is just fine I was engaged most by the essays on intellectual life and life in Chicago The literary criticism and the observations on writing and other writers are less engaging perhaps because I am less familiar with the authors he mentioned These essays help clarify how Bellow could be such a mix of intellectual insight and somewhat cynical self criticism and honesty The honesty comes through clearly, especially on the role of art and culture in the midst of the traumas of the current age and its political and technological changes I am happy to have worked through these essays and look forward to the new biography There is simply too much to think about The phrase, splashed across the cover, suggests a sweeping scope to which this collection doesn t quite measure But the title comes from an essay of the same name In it, Saul Bellow laments the classification of writers as intellectuals and berates intellectuals as phonies and philistines Writers essayists, but mostly fiction writers have a higher calling than the order of the day The beautifully poetic title may leave the reader with a false impr There is simply too much to think about The phrase, splashed across the cover, suggests a sweeping scope to which this collection doesn t quite measure But the title comes from an essay of the same name In it, Saul Bellow laments the classification of writers as intellectuals and berates intellectuals as phonies and philistines Writers essayists, but mostly fiction writers have a higher calling than the order of the day The beautifully poetic title may leave the reader with a false impression of the book s contents but it fits perfectly a collection of essays written by a fiction writer, largely about writing and fiction It s not awe struck murmuring of a bookish kid walking for the first time into The Strand but the grumbling of an old man rolling his eyes at the candy colored tables en route to the dusty first editions.There is simply too much to think about so just leave me alone.It s not the only contradiction on the cover A blurb from the New York Review of Books adorns the top right corner A milestone of twentieth century criticism It takes only three pages for Bellow to assert that the career of a critic, when I am feeling mean about it, I sometimes compare to that of a deaf man who tunes pianos Starting Out in Chicago Bellow s nonfiction is everything his fiction would suggest He s alternately succinct and prolix, colorful and abstract, gracious and didactic but always sharply creative and uncompromisingly imaginative What emerges in 500 pages is a Saul Bellow of glorious contradiction.He has no time for critics, but the longest essay in the volume is his Recent Fiction a Tour of Inspection, in which he critiques the recent work of everyone from Philip Roth to James Baldwin over almost thirty pages He is not a critic but a writer who criticizes He saves his hottest anger for public intellectuals the sort of anger that burns slowly on the back of the tongue and invades the sinuses to hide from any bread or water that might otherwise quench it It s difficult to tell which he resentswriters being asked to comment on politics or political pundits and intellectuals passing themselves off as writers Putting aside that commenting on the vacuous nature of political discourse is its own sort of punditry, some of his most extraordinary writing stems from examinations of Jewish politics and culture I refused to agree with them that my life had been illusion and dust I do not accept any interpretation of history that declares the deepest experience of any person to be superfluous Americans Who Are Also Jews He s not a public intellectual but a writer who comments on matters of public interest.The orneriness and mercury of his writing are refreshing He s unapologetically certain of the validity of his thoughts and voice even when he s aware of their inherent contradictions and equally certain that they might be wrong or change later The arrogance and sure footedness of his voice seem to contradict the nuance and uncertainty of his ideas But they don t While ostensibly composed predominantly of literary analysis, the contained essays are of a culturally philosophical nature It will taking many readings to fully grasp the meanings contained herein, and I will delight in all of them I equally look forward to using this volume as a companion book to numerous classics as well as certain historical texts I received a complimentary copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway Many thanks to all involved in providing me with this opportunity. As someone who initially picked this up as the only work by Saul Bellow I ve read, the collection felt deeply personal While most pieces were prepared speeches or lectures, it is easy to tell, particularly with the final two sections The Eighties and The Nineties and Beyond how Bellow turned back toward himself in writing, how he began to reflect on his work as a writer, lecturer, and of course, Jewish American writer, son of Russian immigrants, born in Montreal, raised in Chicago Looking As someone who initially picked this up as the only work by Saul Bellow I ve read, the collection felt deeply personal While most pieces were prepared speeches or lectures, it is easy to tell, particularly with the final two sections The Eighties and The Nineties and Beyond how Bellow turned back toward himself in writing, how he began to reflect on his work as a writer, lecturer, and of course, Jewish American writer, son of Russian immigrants, born in Montreal, raised in Chicago Looking forward to reading other works by him, taking in these essays This was from Good Reads giveaway program..Thank you.I am a lover of all things written by H L Mencken, so this was a fairly easy reading transition.I have never read Mr Bellow until this book and, in a word, it is delightful.It is grouped with articles from the 50 s 60 s 70 s 80 s and 90 swhich I found very well organized.I highly recommend this book. The book club assignment included the following selections Up from the Pushcart On Abraham Cahan, 1961 Two starsThe Civilized Barbarian Reader, 1987 Three and a half starsMachines and Storybooks Literature in the Age of Technology, 1974 Two and a halfThe Nobel Lecture, 1976Two and a halfA Jewish Writer in America, I Five stars Also see A Jewish Writer in America, II, 1988 Five starsBefore I Go Away A Words and Images Interview with Norman Manea The book club assignment included the following selections Up from the Pushcart On Abraham Cahan, 1961 Two starsThe Civilized Barbarian Reader, 1987 Three and a half starsMachines and Storybooks Literature in the Age of Technology, 1974 Two and a halfThe Nobel Lecture, 1976Two and a halfA Jewish Writer in America, I Five stars Also see A Jewish Writer in America, II, 1988 Five starsBefore I Go Away A Words and Images Interview with Norman Manea, 1999 Five starsThe Day they Signed the Treaty, 1979 Three and a half starsI liked what Saul Bellow said about education when writing in the second essay about Herzog that he was making fun of pedantry He was talking about the failures of education, and I second that emotion My education to a great extent left me under educated Nobody explained to me what education was supposed to be, and I thought enduring it was what was required That way society could maintain its status quo Society could go through the motions of educating its citizens, who could pretend to be educated, while nothing changed Perhaps my befuddlement was due in part to being in the first full generation of women participating in bona fide education instead of obtaining our Mrs So what Saul Bellow was saying here resonated with me.But otherwise I found the first several essays overly abstract I looked up another article about Abraham Cahan, the subject of the first short piece Also, some of the writing in these first essays struck me as doctrinaire He seemed to look down his nose at business and commerce he talked about the decline of the educated class, the increase of illiteracy, and the competition of science and technology with art Of course he thought that technology in the 70s was at its height Could he imagine the present Couldn t he have been less conventional Books themselves are a technology Must knowing one s own path mean casting aspersions on another possible path Some of the stances he committed to the page smack of elitism I don t mean to critique those values at this point, though, as much as to comment on the pallidness of the writing The right philosopher could have heightened the intensity, but in Saul Bellow s hands this got boring.Likewise the Nobel lecture I thought he felt the need to be inspirational when his muse was not in the mood.Everything changed when I got to A Jewish Writer in America I think the comparative improvement was due to his writing about the specific and concrete, rather than abstractions on the State of the Union, World, and Universe I read all these pieces in the order they happened to be listed by the person who recommended them to the book club, and not in chronological order A Jewish Writer, like Herzog, the only novel of his that I ve read, was full of zingers winging their way to the mark The first half of this is available online see above.He continues at his best in the interview Before I Go Away the five months he spent in the hospital as an eight year old, his attempt to meet Trotsky in Mexico he missed out on the meeting due to Trotsky s having been assassinated the previous day but still spent several months in the country , and his attitudes toward ideology.I have perhaps a slavelike constitution which is too easily restrained by bonds It then becomes rebellious and bursts out in a comic revolution.The interviewer reported that quotation to him he asked, Did I say that and when told he had said it, added, Well it s probably the truth So, let s hear it for humor The Day They Signed the Treaty, referring to the event of March, 1979 in Washington DC, strikes me as intermediate between theabstract essays and the two I ve just discussed It s both essay and reportage, as he describes the scene.Other resources ^READ E-PUB ↟ There Is Simply Too Much to Think about: Collected Nonfiction ↳ Bellow s nonfiction has the same strengths as his stories and novels a dynamic responsiveness to character, place and time or era And you wonder what other highbrow writer, or indeed lowbrow writer has such a reflexive grasp of the street, the machine, the law courts, the rackets Martin Amis, The New York Times Book Review The yearmarks several literary milestones the centennial of Saul Bellow s birth, the tenth anniversary of his death, and the publication of Zachary Leader s much anticipated biography Bellow, a Nobel Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and the only novelist to receive three National Book awards, has long been regarded as one of America s most cherished authors Here, Benjamin Taylor, editor of the acclaimed Saul Bellow Letters, presents lesser known aspects of the iconic writerArranged chronologically, this literary time capsule displays the full extent of Bellow s nonfiction, including criticism, interviews, speeches, and other reflections, tracing his career from his initial success as a novelist until the end of his life Bringing together six classic pieces with an abundance of previously uncollected material, There Is Simply Too Much to Think About is a powerful reminder not only of Bellow s genius but also of his enduring place in the western canon and is sure to be widely reviewed and talked about for years to come