When we think of Saul Bellow's work what we think of is a certain tone of voice, a tone of voice that combines the utmost formality with the utmost desperation.So begins Gabriel Josipovici's introduction to The Portable Saul Bellow. This alone is why I love reading Bellow and also why he is more than just an "essayistic" novelist of ideas or of "period pieces" as suggested by Dan Green in his perplexing appraisal of Bellow. It's good to see the Library of America is continuing to collect the novels, with the latest trio reviewed by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein in the LA Times.
In fact, thinking about it, the imperative of that tone of voice applies to all my favourite authors. Formality on its own - the literary novel, for example, as practised in this country - is suffocating, a dead end, while desperation on its own - what might be called Cult writing - is a hollow substitute for the raw life it seeks to communicate. Absence is everything.