Books by Harriet Wasserman

Released: June 23, 1997

It appears to be kiss-and-tell season on Jewish American male novelists; Philip Roth got his last fall, and now Saul Bellow gets his. Wasserman writes without either sentiment or bitterness about the man she devotedly represented for 25 years and who then left her for literary agent provocateur Andrew Wylie (a.k.a. the Jackal). This lack of emotional direction leaves readers a bit confused as to what she wants us to make of the whole thing. In her introduction, Wasserman writes of the ``extra privilege'' of being connected with ``a man of genius, of high art and moral vision, an original thinker,'' and defends him against the familiar charges of misogyny and womanizing. Yet the first episode she relates is how Bellow the noted author turned his eye on her, a young assistant to his agent at Russell & Volkening, selected her to be the first reader of Humboldt's Gift, came to her apartment to discuss it over dinner, and bedded her (a disastrous experience after which, Wasserman assures us, they became the best of platonic friends). And every succeeding incident seems to highlight some petty, mean, selfish act by Bellow. He invited her to visit him in Spain, only to inform her on her arrival that he was leaving the next day, and asked her to cash her travelers' checks for him because he needed money. When his mother-in-law became extremely ill in Romania, Bellow accompanied his wife to see her, though, Wasserman flatly states, ``it was definitely not Saul's style, rushing off like that to be a support to someone.'' She put up with his insensitivity and wisely managed his literary career because that is what nurturing agents do for their simpering author-children. But Wasserman doesn't have much flair for writing, and this spotty look at a 25-year relationship just leaves one wondering where the pleasure was in knowing Saul Bellow. Read full book review >