Saul Bellow to Philip Roth

Another great moment in the latest issue of the New Yorker:

December 12, 1969

Dear Philip:

Your Note [about “Mr. Sammler’s Planet”] did me a lot of good, though I haven’t known what or how to answer. Of course the so-called fabricators will be grinding their knives. They have none of that ingenuous, possibly childish love of literature you and I have. They take a sort of Roman engineering view of things: grind everything to rubble and build cultural monuments on this foundation from which to fly the Bullshit flag.

Anyway, it pleases me greatly that you liked “Sammler.” There aren’t many people in the trade for whom I have any use. But I knew when I hit Chicago (was it twelve years ago?) and read your stories that you were the real thing. When I was a little kid, there were still blacksmiths around, and I’ve never forgotten the ring of a real hammer on a real anvil.

Do you like Woodstock? I lived across the river for eight years. Was it living? But the place was not to blame. It was beautiful.


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