Bellow, His Biographers, and the “Quivering Schmucks”

By David Mikics for Jewish Review of Books


Saul Bellow’s books, admitted his admirer Barney Singer, attract “an awful lot of nuts, a lot of quivering schmucks. . . . But I think I took the cake.” Singer, a young historian at the University of British Columbia, said he read Herzog at least a thousand times during the 1970s. He wrote Bellow hundreds of letters, often containing freewheeling accounts of his own love life (“all of a sudden, broad-wise, it doesn’t rain but it pours”). About twice a year Bellow would send Singer a brief note or a few lines on a postcard. One of his letters read, “No wonder you like Herzog—you resemble him, being always after yourself, a kind of self-persecution. Objectively, that’s funny. Sub., not.”

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