Saul Bellow biographer makes room for baby

James Atlas postpones publication again.

Topics: Books,

The Saul Bellow-watchers who await James Atlas’ biography of the author of “Herzog” will have to wait a little longer. The Random House title, more than 10 years in the making, has been pushed back from April to the fall.

Atlas said the delay has nothing to do with the recent birth of a daughter to the 84-year-old Nobel Prize-winning novelist. “I’m having my own growing pains,” Atlas said. “If you’ve spent 10 years on a book, you can easily get mired in footnotes at the end.” As for the news about Bellow’s baby, Atlas said that he had “heard about it through the grapevine,” and he will incorporate the birth into the biography.

Atlas’ book could have followed on the heels of the February release of “Ravelstein,” the forthcoming Bellow novel that Atlas says is based on the life of the late Allan Bloom, Bellow’s friend and the author of “The Closing of the American Mind.”



In terms of contemporary biographical labors of love, Atlas’ Bellow book still ranks below Jean Strouse’s 15-year work-in-progress, “Morgan: American Financier,” and Edmund Morris’ dozen-year effort, “Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan,” but with this new delay Atlas now has a few months on Judith Thurman, who took 10 years to write “Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette.” Atlas still has a way to go if he wants to outdo the heavyweights from earlier in the 20th century: Henry James biographer Leon Edel took 20 years. James Joyce biographer Richard Ellman took 17.

In Slate last August, Atlas announced that he had finished the bio. “The book is done,” he wrote in a four-word opening paragraph. “From the beginning, the issue of duration loomed. When my agent asked me how long I thought it would take to write the book  I answered cheerfully, ’10 years.’”

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>