Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Saul Bellow: Saying what you damn well please

Saul Bellow (June 10, 1915 – April 5, 2005) was one of our most renowned American writers. He won the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts, and he is the only writer to have won the National Book Award for Fiction three times.

In spite of all the accolades Bellow received during his lifetime (and after) Bellow thought of himself as a "working stiff."

"Celebrity interferes with the business of writing," he said. "But it gives you a certain amount of confidence. Before, I said anything I damn pleased, and I did it defiantly. Now, I say anything I damn please, but I do it with confidence."

Bellow was not afraid to say what he pleased, at any time. Like Churchill, he stated at a PEN conference that ours was the worst form of government, except for all the others. And, he "had a fight on his hands." But Bellow was not one to back down, nor was he one to remain neutral about what he created.

"You must either like what you are doing very much, either like your characters or hate them, you can't be indifferent."

On writing:

"When you write the first few lines of a story, those govern all the rest - like a musical signature."

"Your own natural, original voice provides the engine for your writing."

"The Bible says, 'Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.' That's where the critics come in."

"The most pleasurable moments in writing are when you are either laughing or weeping, and scribbling at the same time. That's what one lives for in this trade."

And on having his book, Seize the Day, made into a movie, he said. "I haven't seen the film so I can't recommend it. But, I've read the book, and it's very good."

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