Handsome is: Adventures with Saul Bellow: A Memoir

Harriet Wasserman, Author Fromm International $23.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-88064-177-7
Reading this memoir is like overhearing parts of conversations on a commuter train--fascinating, voyeuristic but sometimes missing large pieces. Wasserman was novelist Saul Bellow's agent for 25 years, first at the venerable firm of Russell & Volkening in New York City and then at her own agency. As well as handling his literary output and his personal appearances, she supported him faithfully through one Nobel Prize, four marriages and innumerable airports. She read his draft manuscripts and devoted herself to his writing and his needy personality. ""For Saul,"" Wasserman tells us, ""every book is his first book, and he is always the first-time writer welcoming re-enforcement."" Those years form the backbone of this oddly breathless memoir. Always interesting, often insightful, the memoir, however, leaps from subject to subject and drops topics before they are explained--a fourth wife, Janis, appears in the narrative without introduction or identification. At its best, this book is a riveting window into the mundane side of genius; at its worst, it borders on incoherence. Wasserman has previously kept her own council about her most famous client (she also represents Reynolds Price and Oscar Hijuelos), and on the whole has created an affectionate portrait. However, Bellow's sudden defection in 1996 to superagent Andrew Wylie brings this account to an abrupt and painful close. In the end, Wasserman is writing only a rather sad footnote to Bellow's brilliant career. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/02/1997
Release date: 06/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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