The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune 1915-1964 by Zachary Leader

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The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune 1915-1964 by Zachary Leader

Category: Biography
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Andy Heath
Reviewed by Andy Heath
Summary: 'The Life of Saul Bellow' is the biography of America's most honoured author. It is not the first book about his life but it is arguably the most complete. What makes it unique is that it looks deeply at the parallels between his creative process and his personal life.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 832 Date: March 2017
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099520931

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At over eight hundred pages, 'The Life of Saul Bellow' is not a light book, but it is the most complete account of the life and work of America's most honoured literary figure. During the course of his life, a number of notable attempts were made to capture the essence of the man in biographical form. Zachary Leader benefits from this groundwork; he also has the advantage that his work has been compiled since Bellow's death in 2005. As a result, he has had access to sources, manuscripts and letters denied to previous biographers. Leader's research is exemplary and incredibly detailed. He not only looks at the life of the man but at the creative process that made him the colossus that he became and it's all written with a genuine passion, love and respect for his subject.

A truism is that the qualities which make a great writer are not necessarily the same as the ones that make a great human being. Saul Bellow personifies this in his personal life. At times, he was difficult to deal with. If he felt he had been crossed he would retaliate by creating very thinly disguised characters in his fiction and then proceed to a literary assassination. Many of his characters are easily identifiable as figures within his personal life. Many were friends, quite a lot were conceived to be enemies, but their personal traits are laid bare within the pages of his fiction like a pathologist surgically examining a corpse. Opposing this, he could also be generous, kind and warm hearted to anyone who needed his help and advice. Possessed with a tremendous sense of humour and an incisive mind he was a welcome addition to any social gathering. Leader understands the paradoxes within his subject and he explores them. Gently probing and cutting away the layers until we are given an understanding of what it takes to be a literary giant and the toll it can take on the very things which make us human.

As a rule, I am not drawn to biographies. At times, I find them shallow and one-dimensional. They have a tendency of teasing rather than satisfying. 'The Life of Saul Bellow' is different. It is what biography should all be about. It is rich with the details and quality that shape the subject, but it goes further and shows how they were applied to a personal philosophy and creative process. Zachary Leader is an exceptional writer in his own right. His prose is so full of excitement and passion it is infectious. Writing the biography of a literary legend would be intimidating to a writer of lesser talent but he embraces it and delivers a book that is worthy of his subject. For anyone who loves literature or biographies in general I could not recommend 'The Life of Saul Bellow' more highly. An absolute tour de force and a must for any bookshelf.

If you enjoy The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune 1915-1964, you may also enjoy Agatha Christie: An English Mystery by Laura Thompson, Hockney: The Biography, Volume 1, 1937-1975 by Christopher Simon Sykes, I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons and Captivated: J.M. Barrie, the Du Mauriers and the Dark Side of Neverland by Piers Dudgeon.

Buy The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune 1915-1964 by Zachary Leader at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune 1915-1964 by Zachary Leader at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune 1915-1964 by Zachary Leader at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune 1915-1964 by Zachary Leader at Amazon.com.


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