Steven J. Zipperstein
The fame of Mendel Beilis—falsely accused of murdering a Christian boy in Russia 100 years ago—was lavish, if bitter and short-lived.
One of the many pleasures of the recently published Saul Bellow: Letters is how it reacquaints us with Bellow's wry, poignant, infectiously erudite voice. This is all the more surprising because he wasn't, or at least so he insisted, a natural-born letter writer. As in his literature, Bellow's language is so stunning that one wonders whether he was writing to both his correspondents, and to readers like us.
Life is with People is perhaps the most well-known work of shtetl nostalgia. But how should it be read in light of its author's bloody career as one of Stalin's best spies?