Saul Bellow’s Notebook

I always love seeing articles about writers’ archives. I’d love to go through some of those boxes and see all the notebooks within, even if I haven’t read that writer’s work! Saul Bellow is an example… I haven’t read his books, but he left an extensive archive including lots of notebooks, one of which is shown below. Interestingly, his handwritten pages have been used as part of the set design for a theatrical production of one of his novels.

Saul Bellow used 20 notebooks for the draft of his novel “The Adventures of Augie March.” It is on display with other Bellow documents at the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)

A look at the Saul Bellow Papers at the University of Chicago, and how they are used to inform the first stage production of “The Adventures of Augie March”…

Created by set designer (and DePaul University Theatre School dean) John Culbert, it’s plastered with Bellow’s handwriting. Even the proscenium arch, crafted to resemble the steel girders of a Chicago elevated train line, is covered in Bellow’s thin, flowing script.
That handwriting is culled from the centerpiece of the Saul Bellow Papers, the 20 commonplace notebooks into which Bellow poured the first draft of “Augie March” in 1947. These ledgers were part of Bellow’s initial deposit to the university, and if you believe that “Augie March” endures as one of the great American novels — or at least the Great Chicago Novel, the tale of a Humboldt Park immigrant who discovers his identity amid a cacophony of cultures, compromises and allegiances — then their unvarnished, direct-from-his head-to-the-page scratchings can take on the hallowed aura of seminal, consecrated literary gold.

Read more: Diving into Saul Bellow’s archives we found correspondence from every administration from Kennedy to Clinton. And that was only 1 box out of 250

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