It All Adds Up: From the Dim Past to the Uncertain Future (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)

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9780140233650: It All Adds Up: From the Dim Past to the Uncertain Future (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century)

Saul Bellow's fiction, honored by a Nobel Prize and a Pulitzer, among other awards, has made him a literary giant. Now the man himself and a lifetime of his insightful views on a range of topics spring off the page in this, his first nonfiction collection, which encompasses articles, lectures, essays, travel pieces, and an "Autobiography of Ideas." It All Adds Up is a fascinating journey through literary America over the last forty years, guided by one of the "most gifted chroniclers in the Western World" (The London Times).

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About the Author:

Saul Bellow (1915-2005) is the only novelist to receive three National book awards, for The Adventures of Augie March, Herzog, and Mr. Sammler’s Planet.  In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Humboldt’s Gift.  The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to him in 1976 "for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work."  In 1990, Mr. Bellow was presented the National Book Award Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American letters. He has also received the National Medal of Arts. His books include Dangling Man (1944), The Victim (1947), The Adventures of Augie March (1953), Seize the Day (1956), Henderson the Rain King (1959), Herzog (1964), Mosby’s Memoirs (1969), Mr. Sammler’s Planet (1970), Humboldt’s Gift (1975), To Jerusalem and Back (1976), The Dean’s December (1982), Him With His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories (1984), More Die of Heartbreak (1987), A Theft (1989), The Bellarosa Connection (1989), Something to Remember Me By (1991), It All Adds Up (1994), The Actual (1997), Ravelstein (2000) and Collected Stories (2001). A longtime resident of Chicago, Bellow was living and teaching in Boston at the time of his death in 2005.

From Booklist:

In his preface to this collection of nonfiction work, Bellow reflects on what he would say differently if he wrote some of the older pieces now. This second guessing sets the tone for this entire dichotomous volume; rigorous and devilish throughout, Bellow consistently sees all sides to an issue and continually airs the sort of existential doubt any keen observer of humanity is bound to acquire. This tension enlivens his pugnacious prose, which also echoes the skittish energy of his longtime hometown, Chicago. Bellow's sentences have a jab and parry to them that echo Chicago's bluster, cultural self-doubt, and ruthlessness. A born storyteller, Bellow is at his best in essays on his Chicago childhood and in deft characterizations of towering figures such as Mozart and FDR. Bellow is fascinated by history, genius, politics, and the aura of places as diverse as Galena, Illinois; Paris; Vermont; and Tuscany. His essays are organized into loose, topical groupings rather than chronological order. For instance, his striking 1976 Nobel lecture is followed by a revealing 1993 piece titled "Writers, Intellectuals, Politics: Mainly Reminiscence," and the continuity of thought and attitude is notable. If there is a main theme here, it's Bellow's perception of the great divide between artists and intellectuals. Again and again, Bellow contrasts cognition with imagination, rails against the pomposity and sterility of the academy, and praises the soulfulness of art. Several question-and-answer pieces, "An Interview with Myself" (1975), "A Half Life" (1990), and "A Second Half Life" (1991), present us with scrappy self-portraits that throw both Bellow's gift for writing and crusty worldview into high relief. Donna Seaman

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