Saul Bellow’s Collected Stories, handpicked by the author, display the depth of character and acumen of the Nobel laureate’s narrative powers. While he has garnered acclaim as a novelist, Bellow’s shorter works prove equally strong. Primarily set in a sepia-toned Chicago, characters (mostly men) deal with family issues, desires, memories, and failings—often arriving at humorous if not comic situations. In the process, these quirky and wholly real characters examine human nature.
The narrative is straightforward, with deftly handled shifts in time, and the prose is concise, sometimes pithy, with equal parts humor and grace. In “Looking for Mr. Green,” Bellow describes a relief worker sized up by tenants: “They must have realized that he was not a college boy employed afternoons by a bill collector, trying foxily to pass for a relief clerk, recognized that he was an older man who knew himself what need was, who had more than an average seasoning in hardship. It was evident enough if you looked at the marks under his eyes and at the sides of his mouth.” This collection should appeal both to those familiar with Bellow’s work and to those seeking an introduction.