p.483--"...love is adultery...and expresses change...don't think you don't have to obey the laws of life."
p.485--"This took place on the fifty-eight story of a building in midtown Manhattan, behind sliding glass doors. No use being so blase as not to mention it."
p.490--"...He was a mighty attractive and ideal man. There was a lanky American elegance about him, in the ease of his long legs and his cropped-on-the-sides head which from chin to top showed the male molding on the strong side of haggardness; his gray eyes on the cool side of frankness...He knew so much too. Suppose that you said something about D'Alembert or Isidore of Seville, Frazer would have been ready to discuss them. You couldn't find a subject that stumped him. He was going to become an important person. You could see how he was flying at the highest, from one peak of life to the next..."
p.491--"Some people can't bear a train departure at any time, and how crushing these departures were in the stations during the war, as the cars moved away and left throngs behind, and the oil-spotted empty tracks and the mounting, multiplying ties."--Like boarding schools, nightclubs with brass bands, gin fizzes and people in evening dress, and Fawlty Towers-style seaside hotels of the sort that haven't been in operation for 30 years, the setting of the train departure is still irresistible to writers and filmmakers as well as their audiences though fewer and fewer people have any personal experience of these things with any passing year. Combine the general appeal such scenes have with war and sex and artistic associations, followed by their increasing recession from normal life and in no time at all you have a mythology. Airports, as much as some people do love and get a rush out of being in them, occupy a more detached space in the emotions. Formerly, at least, when you arrived in most places by train, (particularly in America there are some cities where this is not so much the case anymore), the moment you stepped onto the platform, you were there, thrust at once into the atmosphere and life of your destination, and, conversely, you remained in it until you boarded the train out of town again. In flying this sense is decidedly muted; if one lands in a country very different from that from which he departed some effect might be registered in the airport, but for the most part airports do a good job of keeping any sensation of real life at bay. When driving the sad moment comes when you pull out of the driveway (parking lots interestingly arouse no emotion on leaving them), and sometimes you may cry for a couple of miles until you get onto the interstate, or cross some large bridge that psychologically cuts you off from the place you were--this last phenomenon works quite strongly with me--however the people you have left after seeing you around the corner usually go right back in the house and move on to something else in a couple of minutes. These are very small and private dramas compared to the spectacle of a crowded city train station, or the emotion of a small-town one, especially in wartime.
p.493--"If he floated down the river with a hard-on he expected them to raise the bridges for him, that's how he was an egotist."--I couldn't leave this out. Sorry. A great many men really do talk this way in their day-to-day conversation, though I am actually not one of them, and I don't exactly wish I were, but I have observed that the men who do rarely express any nagging desire to give up the habit.
p.498--"Busy men often die on their holiday, as if they had no time for it during the business week. Relaxation kills them."
pp.504-5--"So my first project was to study the physiology of boredom...How come the simple cells wish for immortality whereas the complex organisms get bored? The cells have the will to persist in their essence..."
The gradual buildup of the outrageous monomaniacal character Bateshaw was another well-executed piece of writing. In most modern stories I feel like it would have certainly followed that he would have killed Augie, as I feel like most modern authors are either intimidated by and have no idea how to deal with monomaniacal figures, or fancy themselves to be such figures and therefore sympathize with them. I suspect the later Bellow would have been more inclined to finish a mere everyman off as well, but it is rare a younger, or at least not quite fully attained man can convincingly adopt such a dark view of the human condition.
p.515--"Pretty soon I understood that I would mostly do as she wanted because it was I who loved her most."
It doubtless frequently happens in marriages that city-people and country-people miss each other and end up with someone of the opposite persuasion, if indeed it does not happen most of the time. What is interesting is that in such cases the supposed city-lover is often more temperamentally suited for a quiet, nontaxing life far away from the action of urban existence and vice-versa, which makes the object of their love, however subconsciously realized, a sensible sense. At least this is my very unworked-out theory.
p.521--`....he...gave me a sort of talk...about Paris and how nothing like it existed, tha capital of the hope that Man could be free without the help of Gods, clear of mind, civilized, wise, pleasant, and all of that...I felt rather insulted that he should laugh when he asked me what I was doing here...if it was for Man why shouldn`t it be for me too?`
p.523--French vocabulary alert--`He`s what the Parisians call a noceur, meaning that it`s always the wedding night for him or that he plays musical beds.
p.524--`To tell the truth, I`m good and tired of all these big personalities, destiny-molders, and heavy-water brains, Machiavellis and wizard-evildoers, big-wheels and imposers-upon, absolutists.` He probably did feel this until he became one.
Because Saul Bellow is so recently deceased, and his children, wives and hordes of intimate acquaintance still walking around and occupying prominent positions all over the culture (his youngest daughter, whom he had at age 84, could theoretically go to college with my oldest son), it is a strange matter to think of him as a historical figure and to plan a tour associated with his life similar to those we have made for other authors who have been dead for hundreds of years and whose tombs and houses and so forth receive very view visitors (Boswell`s house in Auchinleck, Scotland, on this note, which has a collection of memorabilia, has closed indefinitely due to a lack of visitors, and other museums of this type, which I obviously tend to enjoy, appear doomed to follow). I would not care to be gawking or even reflecting thoughtfully at the man`s grave knowing that some relatively or profoundly intelligent literary friend could pop in at any moment, something one does not have to worry about at Oliver Goldsmith`s or Franklin Pierce`s or Longfellow`s graves, who would probably be delighted to know you were there. Nonetheless due to particular circumstances I will list some sites here.
According to the biography of him in my local library, Bellow was born at 130 Eighth Avenue in Lachine, Quebec, now incorporated into Montreal, and I have always supposed that the flashback scenes set in circa-1920 Montreal in Herzog must obviously be based on this house. The house does not appear to be there anymore. I know this because I actually drove out there one afternoon on one of my trips to Montreal to check it out. These are the kinds of things I do looking for an excuse to poke around somewhere where there is no reason to do so and see if I find anything. This one turn up better stuff than most hunts. The street is still working-class residential, though the tenements that were apparently there before have been replaced with 1950s two-story brick houses. I took a picture of the block but I still haven`t learned how to put my own pictures on the Internet. The area is, along with most of the western suburbs on the island of Montreal, almost completely Anglophone, which I had not known. Indeed the towns in this part of the island resemble those in New England, particularly some of the dense old towns near Boston, more than is usual in the province of Quebec. Bellow`s old street is near the St Lawrence River, which is massive all along this route, and there is a pleasant park along the bank, really more like the shore there. This was a pleasant excursion.
According to top-level research undertaken on the Internet, Bellow, who died in 2005, was buried at the Shir He Harim graveyard in Brattleboro, Vermont. I have not been to see it though devotees of this blog, if there were any, would know that Brattleboro is one of my main hangouts. Evidently the great man had a place quite near us, out towards Marlboro (note to any St. John`s people who might be lurking around: if you thought Annapolis was a stifling city to be stuck in after school hours, Marlboro College has only 200 students and is three miles of wooded road to the center of Marlboro town, which consists of four buildings; a church, a post office, a library that could fit into the SJC security hut and I believe some kind of quaint country store. Not to mention that it is freezing cold with heavy snowfall the majority of the school year. But I digress too much). If he were buried in the main cemetery in town, where my wife`s grandparents and many other relatives are, I could justify wandering over and taking a peek--my own grandparents are buried in the same cemetery as Connie Mack, and I`ve checked out his grave while I was there before--but this other place I think I will have to hold off on for a few years, certainly until I can find out where it is, which seems to be something of a secret to the gentile population of Brattleboro, or least the old part of it that predate the arrival of all the progressive people, which is of course the group that all of my acquaintance there falls under. Maybe it`s private anyway. Cervantes`s tomb in Madrid is inside a monastery, inaccessible to the masses. Plenty of other people have had their ashes thrown under a bush or in somebody`s garden but with these you can usually still walk on them anyway. It is a bizarre habit to have gotten into, but it does take you to a lot of places worth seeing to which you would not otherwise have gone, and it does make me feel connected in some way with the serious part of the world which is silly but nonetheless important to me.