Five of Saul Bellow’s most moving, richly textured, and exquisitely plotted short stories make up this volume, each providing a history of personality and self-awakening. The title story, “Him with His Foot in His Mouth,” follows a musicologist narrator who for years has scattered wounding witticisms “from the depths of my nature, that hoard of strange formulations.” As the story unfolds he tries to discover what led him into a “deep legal-financial hole,” while he awaits extradition from a refuge in British Columbia. “What Kind of Day Did You Have?” follows a divorced suburban woman and her lovers—would-be and actual—through a frantic day in their lives. Their needs and passions, as well as their comic conflicts, are matters of life and death. In “Zetland: By a Character Witness” and in “A Silver Dish,” Bellow returns, with his unequaled command of eloquent recollected detail, to a bygone Chicago, “Zetland” is a brilliant portrait of an artist as a young boy and a man, precocious and eccentric; “A Silver Dish” is a memorable story of a raffish, willful father and his affectionate son. “Cousins,” the final story in the volume, explores the mysteries of family feeling—mysteries that defy both logic and the worthiness of their objects, as Ijah Brodsky, successful in the larger world, is drawn into an encounter with criminal and naively idealistic forces. This collection represents a turning point in the bountiful career of Saul Bellow, a felicitous rendering of the human condition in all its absurd complexity.
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