Saul Bellow (1915-2005) was a Jewish Canadian-American writer and teacher. For his literary work, Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts. He is the only writer to win the National Book Award for Fiction three times and he received the National Book Foundation’s lifetime Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 1990. His best-known works include The Adventures of Augie March, Henderson the Rain King, Herzog, Mr. Sammler’s Planet, Seize the Day, Humboldt’s Gift and Ravelstein. He is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest authors.
He was never one to talk about his writing routine. Nor did he wish to discuss what he considered his personal writing habits, whether he used a pen or typewriter, how hard he pressed on the page. For the artist to give such loving attention to his own shoelaces was dangerous, even immoral.
Bellow wrote every day, beginning early in the morning and breaking off around lunchtime. In a letter written in 1968 he said … “I simply get up in the morning and go to work.”
He was interviewed by the Paris Review over a period of a few weeks during 1965 in his office at the University of Chicago where he was a professor. This is a lovely description of his working environment …
The office, though large, is fairly typical of those on the main quadrangles: much of it rather dark with one brightly lighted area, occupied by his desk, immediately before a set of three dormer windows; dark-green metal bookcases line the walls, casually used as storage for a miscellany of books, magazines, and correspondence. A set of The Complete Works of Rudyard Kipling (“it was given to me”) shares space with examination copies of new novels and with a few of Bellow’s own books, including recent French and Italian translations of Herzog. A table, a couple of typing stands, and various decrepit and mismatched chairs are scattered in apparently haphazard fashion throughout the room. A wall rack just inside the door holds his jaunty black felt hat and his walking cane. There is a general sense of disarray, with stacks of papers, books, and letters lying everywhere. When one comes to the door, Bellow is frequently at his typing stand, rapidly pounding out on a portable machine responses to some of the many letters he gets daily.