Written in 1944, Saul Bellow’s Dangling Man begins, “There was a time when people were in the habit of addressing themselves frequently and felt no shame at making a record of their inward transactions. But to keep a journal nowadays is considered a kind of self-indulgence, a weakness, and in poor taste. For this is an era of hardboiled-dom.”
The irony of writing this on a blog, while casting an eye over a rolling Twitter-feed. What is the opposite of hardboiled-dom, an appropriate name for our self-indulgent era?
At the time of writing his debut novel, Bellow could not have predicted winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976. His Nobel lecture is magnificent:
Characters, Elizabeth Bowen once said, are not created by writers. They pre-exist and they have to be found. If we do not find them, if we fail to represent them, the fault is ours. It must be admitted, however, that finding them is not easy. The condition of human beings has perhaps never been more difficult to define.