A Theft (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
In his novella A Theft, Saul Bellow, America’s 1976 Nobel laureate and the distinguished author of such prizewinning novels as The Adventures of Augie March (1953), Herzog (1964), Mr. Sammler’s Planet (1970), and Humboldt’s Gift (1975), has written something he had never tried before: a story with a female protagonist. Like the male heroes of many earlier novels, Clara Velde is at once strong and driven: an intelligent, successful, introspective, garrulous figure, in quest of love and wisdom, or as a minimum, seeking peace of mind amid the turbulence of New York City, the Gogmagogsville of Clara’s energetic monologues. Bellow begins with “what was conspicuous about her, . . a head unusually big. In a person of inert character a head of such size might have seemed a deformity; in Clara, because she had so much personal force, it came across as ruggedly handsome. She needed that head; a mind like hers demanded space.” Clara, by origin a country girl, has never quite shed her rural innocence, for all her present worldly sophistication. Her family took root in the farm country of Illinois and Indiana, but she fled their “old-time religion,” including “prayers at breakfast, grace at every meal, psalms learned by heart, the Gospels, chapter and verse,” for literary studies in the East at Wellesley and Columbia. She has achieved worldly success, becoming in her vigorous and still-attractive middle age the...
(The entire section is 1800 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1990)
Library Journal. CXIV, March 15, 1989, p. 84.
London Review of Books. XI, March 30, 1989, p. 21.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. March 19, 1989, p. 3.
The Nation. CCXLVIII, May 15, 1989, p. 674.
The New Republic. CCII, January 1, 1990, p. 37.
The New York Review of Books. XXXVI, April 27, 1989, p. 50.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIV, March 5, 1989, p. 3.
The New Yorker. LXV, May 1, 1989, p. 111.
Newsweek. CXIII, March 20, 1989, p. 80.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXV, February 3, 1989, p. 105.
Time. CXXXIII, March 6, 1989, p. 70.
The Times Literary Supplement. March 24, 1989, p. 299.
The Washington Post. February 24, 1989, p. C3.
(The entire section is 79 words.)