“I Don’t Live Right”


We found this on Meanjin online and originally came across this in print in the New Yorker some many moons ago. Can’t help but choke up on that last line. There is something about communication in the purest sense of the word that just gets us every time.


Dear Philip Roth:

Manuscripts around here shift and wander in huge piles, like the dunes. Yours turned up today, and I apologize to you for my disorder. It hurts me more. … My reaction to your story (“Expect the Vandals”) was on the positive side of the scale, strongly. … A great idea, but palpably Idea. I have a thing about Ideas in stories. Camus’s “The Plague” was an IDEA. Good or bad? Not so hot, in my opinion. With you the Idea gains ground fast, easily. It conquers. What of Moe?

Look, try Henry Volkening at 522 Fifth Ave. My agent. A very good one, too. Best of luck. And forgive my having the mss. so long. I should have read it at once. But I don’t live right.


Saul Bellow

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