Over at the Los Angeles Review of Books, David Wolpe reviews Greg Bellow’s memoir, Saul Bellow’s Heart:
After James Atlas’s 2002 biography, widely panned, with its portrayal of an altogether unappealing philanderer, is there balm in Gilead?
“Our father was always easily angered, prone to argument, acutely sensitive, and palpably vulnerable to criticism.” Reading this sentence in Greg Bellow’s new memoir, Saul Bellow’s Heart, one remembers the saying attributed to a French King, “I would rather be killed by my enemies than by my children.” Maybe we should have stuck with Atlas.
But Greg (permit me the first name, to distinguish from his father) has done something complicated and remarkable. He has spared none of the unsavory parts of his father’s character and still enabled us to understand why this man could generate, throughout his life, so much love. Greg expresses anger along the way — this book does not pull punches with the characters who moved through Bellow’s life — without the rancorous bitterness that suggests still unsettled reflections. Greg has opened his own heart. If there is any truth to the old adage that you judge a parent by the child, Greg is a testimonial.
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