Feeling the loss | AspenTimes.com

Feeling the loss

Dear Editor:

Some 30 years ago Saul Bellow spent parts of summers here. I got to know him. We took walks together. On one of them he said of critics, “We make them an offering and they take it as a provocation.” He was at the time among wives and had a lady friend visiting, as did I. We set about to find some activities the four of us could share. As the women were both quite athletic, I suggested a walk to Cathedral Lake; It was early in the summer so I knew that there would be snow at the lake and I thought that we would have the place largely to ourselves. To understand what ensued I must explain a couple of things.

Bellow and I had both just read James Dickey’s brilliant and disturbing novel “Deliverance.” You will recall that this involved some men out on a jaunt in the backcountry when they were captured by some rednecks at gun point and one of them was sodomized. The other thing to note is that Bellow wore a large sun hat on the hike so that his face was half-hidden.

In any event we were about halfway up to the lake when, on the trail coming down, came a very tough-looking man with a gun. This was not a .22 but a real heavy-duty arm. Bellow froze like a deer caught in headlights. Then not far behind came Robert McNamara, followed by another goon with a gun. McNamara was then secretary of defense and these goons must have been his bodyguards.

Bellow was now in a rage. The whole spectacle was a deep affront to him. When McNamara came closer, Bellow said to me in a loud voice, “McNamara is a shit.” I have no idea if McNamara heard, but he smiled amiably and went on his way.

Now both he and Bellow are gone. Sic transit…

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Jeremy Bernstein


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