March 31, 2009KR BlogKR

“Sacrificially monogamous”? Sold.

I’ve just worked my way through Jeffrey Meyers’s exploration of Saul Bellow’s many wives and the influences they had on his work, from the current issue of KR. (Put the plugs up front, I always say.) For many reasons, the essay is a fascinating jaunt through Bellows’s personal history — but most particularly (at least for me) because I wonder what the founding patriarch of the Kenyon Review might think of it.

Granted, we’ve come a long way from the strictures of New Criticism — but it still jolts me every now and then to see a writer’s life smartly examined in order to better understand their work. If you’re going to commit the intentional fallacy, then it seems the best practice to just go ahead and commit it all over the place. Truly.

Besides, without taking such an approach, you might not compose your strongest possible opening salvo. To wit:

“The sacrificially monogamous Scott Fitzgerald, a shrewd, indeed prophetic observer of Hemingway, had “a theory that Ernest needs a new woman for each big book. There was Hadley for the stories and The Sun Also Rises. Now there’s Pauline. A Farewell to Arms is a big book. If there’s another big book I think we’ll find Ernest has another wife.”

Most of this consists of a killer quote from Fitzgerald. But leading into said killer quote with the confident and colorful intro, “sacrificially monogamous”? Tell me you wouldn’t read every word that follows….

(Psst. You can. In the current issue.)