Publishing his first novel "The Dangling Man" in 1944, it would be just year shy of a decade before Saul Bellow found himself propelled to the height of literary stardom in America for his third book "The Adventures of Augie March", garnering the first of his three National Book Awards for fiction. Hailed by scholars and critics as one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century, Bellow went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for "Humboldt's Gift" in 1976, and during that same year, received the Nobel Prize in literature.
Trademarked for his ability to examine, and capture with resilient conviction, the disorienting nature of modern civilization brought upon by materialism, suppressed hysteria, and misleading knowledge that have only compounded in relevance as American continues to hobble through the Trump era, such an approach has been adopted by many of Bellow's contemporaries and pupils including Philip Roth, whom the native of Lachine, Quebec, Canada taught at the University of Chicago. Remaining and inspiration today as he was then, here are five of the most poignant takeaways from what is, and will forever be, a literary legend.
1. "When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice."
Whenever we seek counsel, its not help or guidance that we seek, but rather the consensus to justify what we already think, feel, and how we desire to act based off how we feel, and what we think.
2. "In an age of madness, to expect to be untouched by madness is a form of madness. But the pursuit of sanity can be a form of madness, too."
With human beings being so complex, nuanced, and caught in a maelstrom of flux, it's normal to be in possession of a shattered, disoriented perception of oneself. But to deny this for the sake of being normal has the potential to further shatter and disorient you.
3. "Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door."
What makes us unique, and allows us to distinguish ourselves from one another is our ability to remember. For in-memory lies a history, and in every history, our story. Recollections captured into words that line the pages to give our lives meaning, our lives color. A color only meant for each of us as individuals to possess.
4. "A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."
In times of great disillusionment and travail, such is the pain we bear that the only way to mend is through a break. A break into a place, a time, where such despair has yet to exist or has ceased in doing so.
5. "One thought-murder a day keeps the psychiatrist away."
Sometimes the only way to feel sane is to allow the very thing driving us from it to take hold. Only then do we get a hold of our sanity.
Although it has been nearly a decade and a half since Saul Bellow has passed on, his legacy, his memory remains. Shouting, bellowing at us from the pages of his books even as they delve beneath the surface of our polished covers, and rummage through the violence of the insanity that allows us to be sane.
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