Saul Bellow’s work tends to be quasi-autobiographical, dealing with the creative, spiritual, and intellectual crises undergone by intellectuals much like himself; many of the characters in his works are based on the “New York Intellectuals”, a group especially prominent in the 1950s and 1960s and centred around Greenwich Village, and another circle around the University of Chicago.
Charlie Citrine starts his career as an idealistic young intellectual, writes a play that is a Broadway success, and then betrays his talent and succumbs to a life focussed on conventional success and material aspirations. His crisis comes when he must choose between his art and outward success.
Moses Herzog is a scholar whose marriage falls apart, perhaps due to his prioritizing his intellectual pursuits above his relationships. He goes through a major crisis, marked by prolific and obsessive letter writing, in response to the failure of the marriage.
Albert Corde in The Dean’s December involves two parallel crises that cause another intellectual, university Dean and journalist Corde, to revaluate his life and ideas.