As Bellow had used the traditional, even old-fashioned narrative structure of the picaresque for his first major work, The Adventures of Augie March, so thirty years later the author shows his interest in more modern narrative forms. The Bellarosa Connection is an example of the so-called new journalism, in which real events and people are treated in broadly fictional ways. E. L. Doctorow, for example, had used such historical personalities as Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, and J. P. Morgan in the fictional tapestry of his Ragtime (1975).
In The Bellarosa Connection, Bellow creates a series of events based on the historic atrocity of the Holocaust during World War II. The action centers on Sorella Fonstein’s persistence in gaining an interview with impresario Billy Rose, who was responsible—through his anonymous underground railroad—for bringing a number of Jews to America as they escaped from the Nazis. Among those who were saved was Sorella’s husband, Harry. Fonstein is snubbed by Billy Rose (the European Jews had called their savior “Bellarosa”), but Sorella herself, with tigerlike tenacity, ultimately succeeds in confronting Billy and blackmailing him, through her knowledge of a scandal, into meeting with Harry.
Billy’s ignorance and crudity as a human being are portrayed with insight, for if human character is fraught with contradiction, then Billy’s character is contradiction personified....
(The entire section is 591 words.)