Sunday, November 8, 2009

Charitable Retirees: Bellow and Adletsky

Author Louis Begley, reviewing Saul Bellow's The Actual for the New York Times said of it, "'The Actual' is not a young man's piece of fiction, and our expectations for it must be adjusted accordingly. It is instead something far more rare: the work of a great master still locked in unequal combat with Eros and Time" (you can read the whole review here). I cannot help but see a reflection of this in the billionaire Mr. Adletsky.

Of course there is the obvious connection...the aged jewish man in Chicago. But perhaps less so is the quality that both men share having lived a long prosperous career and their attempts to give back at the end of it. Mr. Adletsky does for Harry Trellman what Harry was never able to do for himself (even standing with Amy Wustrin naked in the shower) and get him to admit to Amy the love that he has always had for her. Mr. Adelsky is reaching out and helping a, until recently, complete stranger with the experience that a long and successful life has brought him. He certainly has the resources.

Saul Bellow in writing The Actual has done likewise. In 1997 he is at the end of an immensely successful writing career having won the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and three National Book Awards among countless other achievements. He--like Adletsky--is looking back, reflecting on his massive success and is reaching out to offer up the things that his experiences have taught him. This is why Louis Begley observed that The Actual is the work of a 'great master' young writer could have passed along the experience that age brings like Saul Bellow.

Also, I saw that another blog post mentioned the payoff that happens in the last three lines of the book. It got me thinking...was this Bellow foretelling the payoff of The Actual at the end of his own life?

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