By the time “A Silver Dish” was published in Saul Bellow’s 1984 collection Him with His Foot in His Mouth, Bellow’s reputation as one of the great American authors was already established. He had won most of the major awards available to writers, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1984. Still, even with a devout following of fans and scholars waiting for each new work, this collection was greeted with particular enthusiasm. Bellow’s reputation was built by the novels that he published after the 1940s, but few readers had ever encountered his short fiction. With his reputation established, Bellow expanded the scope of his novels, inserting longer and longer passages of philosophical musings within the stories. As Sanford Pinsker explained it in his review of Him with His Foot in His Mouth for Studies in Short Fiction, “Saul Bellow’s last novel, The Dean’s December, confirmed what fans and critics alike had long suspected—namely, that the delicate balance between texture and talkiness was tilting, unhappily, toward the latter.” Bellow’s characters “had too much of the non-fictional essay pressing on their chests.” Pinsker was pleased to report that the short story form focused Bellow’s skills onto story-telling: “the sheer discipline that the short story requires has served Bellow well at this time, this place in his distinguished career.”
A Silver Dish: Police officer directing traffic in a snowstorm, in a scene similar to the one described in Saul Bellow’s “A Silver Dish” [graphic graphicname="TIF00184083" orient="landscape" size="B"]
The collection was received positively all around. D. Keith Mano started his review in the National Review by calling the book “a spirit-wrestler.” Writing in a style that reflects Bellow’s own, Mano notes, “In five stories Bellow, our best manuscript...
(The entire section is 446 words.)