The History of Literature #205 – Saul Bellow

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Saul Bellow (1915-2005) was born in Quebec, immigrated to Chicago, and became one of the greatest of the great American novelists. In 1976 he won the Nobel Prize for writing that displayed “the mixture of rich picaresque novel and subtle analysis of our culture, of entertaining adventure, drastic and tragic episodes in quick succession interspersed with philosophic conversation, all developed by a commentator with a witty tongue and penetrating insight into the outer and inner complications that drive us to act, or prevent us from acting, and that can be called the dilemma of our age.”

In this episode, Jacke and Mike take a look at one of their favorite authors, discussing the highs and lows of the “first-class noticer” and his larger-than-life presence in the literary world.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Frog Legs Rag” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature Episode 38 – Great Literary Duos (Part Two)

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When are two artists or characters more than the sum of their parts? How is that magic created? And what does it mean for the rest of us? Part two of a conversation with host Jacke Wilson and his guest, the President of the Literature Supporters Club, on great literary duos.

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You can find more literary discussion at jackewilson.com and more episodes of the series at historyofliterature.com.

Contact the host at jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Sweeter Vermouth” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

 

A Tale of Two Cities: London and New York in 2013

Image Credit: Alamy

Just got back from a quick trip to London. I’ve always loved London, but this time I was overwhelmed. Not from the bookstores one stumbles upon, although those were fantastic as usual. Not because I look out of my hotel window and think I see where the Beatles held their rooftop concert. Not because of the glories of clotted cream. No, there was something else this time.

There’s a passage somewhere in which an English author (Martin Amis?) attempts to convey the vastness of America to a U.K. audience.* He starts by saying that you could match up London with New York well enough, but after that you’d quickly start running out of reasonable comparisons. Boston would be the equivalent of Edinburgh. Chicago would be Manchester. Detroit would be Glasgow. But what would be comparable to Los Angeles? And you’d still have San Francisco, Seattle, San Diego, Dallas, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Houston – the list goes on. If I remember correctly he ticked through several of these, each comparison getting more ludicrous, before delivering the clincher: “New Orleans would be Hull.”

That’s right. New Orleans is not Hull. And although I adored London, the jingo in me thought, “Jeez, you probably can’t even give them London.”

New York just seemed to rule everything, in those days. It was the engine that powered the world’s economy and its culture. Bigger, better, smarter, tougher. More excitement, more energy than anywhere else in the world.

That’s what I thought twenty years ago when I was traveling around the world, engaging in conversations with fellow backpackers in youth hostels:

“What’s the best city in the world?”

“Do you mean best or my favorite?”

“Well, let’s hear both – we have time!”

Rome was always my favorite, with London usually coming in second. A soft spot for Chicago. But I had to credit New York as the best, and so did everyone else, and we didn’t take arguments to the contrary very seriously. If there was a championship belt worn by cities, New York had claimed it – probably sometime in the 1940s, if not before. Since then there had not even been any serious contenders. New York reigned as the Greatest City in the World, fighting only with historical Rome and Athens and Paris and London for a position as Greatest City of All-Time.

I didn’t think that during this trip. And what saddened me is why.  Continue reading