With the passing of Eudora Welty, our only living Nobel laureate remains virtually unchallenged as America’s greatest writer of fiction (Roth, Mailer, Updike, Oates, and perhaps a handful of others). This welcome tributory volume includes eleven stories reprinted from three earlier collections and the recent novellas A Theft and The Bellarosa Connection (though not, oddly, the vigorous 1997 novella The Actual, nor Bellow’s undisputed masterpiece in the form of Seize the Day). A warmhearted and revealing Preface by (Mrs.) Janis Bellow and critic James Wood’s appreciative Introduction lead smoothly into such rarefied pleasures as an early urban fable about identity and its elusiveness (“Looking for Mr. Green”); ironical accounts of an intellectual’s confrontation with his own emotional coldness (“Mosby’s Memoirs”), a failed attempt to reduce a conflicted family’s sprawling history to verifiable data (“The Old System”); and a bittersweet memory of youthful folly, insensitivity, and stunned awareness set in a wonderfully realized Depression-era Chicago (“Something to Remember Me By”). At their (frequent) best these richly imagined and scrupulously written fictions offer a lavish display of Bellow’s verbal brilliance, flair for idiosyncratic characterization, and unmatched (except perhaps by Faulkner?) lyrical comprehension of the rhythms of changing and aging.
One for the permanent shelf.