Saul Bellow

06bellow1_184 Maybe I read him when I wasn’t ready to appreciate him. Still the death of Saul Bellow at the age of 89 marks the passing of a literary giant. Three other American writers have won the Nobel after he won in 1976 — Isaac Bashevis Singer in 1978 (only two years later!), Joseph Brodsky in 1987 and Toni Morrison in 1993. Only Morrison is as widely read as Bellow was in his day, though she too is not my kind of a writer.
Singer, though much admired, is too niche a writer. As for Brodsky, I have not read any of his poems or plays.
I am not inclined to pick up Singer again after what little I have read.
But Bellow I should have read more.  Henderson the Rain King and Herzog are his only two novels I have read.  I went through them when I was deep in Graham Greene, Lawrence Durrell and other English writers. An altogether different cup of tea.
PS: Bellow was no minimalist either in his writing or in his private life. He had a daughter by his fifth wife when he was 84!

Macbeth defamed?

Is this a murderous villain I see before me? No, it’s a cuddly, peace-loving king, says The Times headline. And it reports:

DOUBLE, double toil and trouble: Shakespeare’s portrayal of Macbeth as a blood-soaked assassin manipulated by a cunning wife has been branded a travesty by politicians who want to restore the king to his proper place in his nation’s history — and cash in on it.

Members of the Scottish Parliament want to rescue the 11th-century monarch from what they claim is the “bad press” of the play.

The MSPs have submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament which, if agreed, will see 2005, the 1,000th anniversary of Macbeth’s birth, as the year in which he acquires a new halo and his image as the tragic, twisted villain of the Scottish play is dumped in favour of that of a cuddly, peace-loving monarch.

The motion calls for the Parliament to make arrangements to mark Macbeth’s birthday and regrets that he is “misportrayed in the inaccurate Shakespeare play when he was in fact a successful Scottish king”.

The 20 MSPs who have signed the motion are also calling for the establishment of a Macbeth heritage trail in the north-east of Scotland to boost both tourism in the area, which contains a Macbeth Well and a Macbeth Cairn.

Alex Johnstone, the Conservative MSP who is spearheading the Save Macbeth campaign, said: “Macbeth gets a bad press from his association with Shakespeare. He was very probably a good king and he should be given an amnesty.

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The second Mrs Eliot

Eliotvalerie I was so surprised when I read today that TS Eliot’s wife is still alive. But Valerie Eliot was only 30 years old when he married her. He was 68 himself. Phew, she was not even half his age. And it was she who pursued him working as his secretary for eight years before he married her in 1957, 10 years after the death of his first wife, Vivien. She did not have him long. He died eight years later in 1965.

The story is told in The Guardian by Karen Christensen, who worked on the first volume of Eliot’s letters. She has an axe to grind. She hoped to publish letters from Eliot’s later life after she came out with the first volume in 1988. But she can’t. She writes:

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