Friday, April 09, 2010

Saul Bellow on Clinton-gate

Today I came across Ramona Koval's interview of Saul Bellow. Now Bellow has been a favorite writer of mine. I was fascinated by Seize the Day and Humboldt's gift. Then, serendipitously crops up the following piece of conversation, which has some connection to this post.
"Saul Bellow: Well it's partly a matter of precedent, because in the nineteenth century the great writers did—some of them, many of them—did offer prescriptions: Tolstoy taught school in a sort of Rousseau-an way and everybody had some program or other; even Dickens had programs for happiness and so forth, and the public ate that up. It was very keen to have somebody to tell it what to do. The same thing is no longer felt. I think we've been obviously brushed aside. Nobody really knows how to live in the present circumstances. There's no such thing as being 'on top of it', I don't think. I think the recent experience of President Clinton shows that, if it shows nothing else. He thought he was on top of it.
"Ramona Koval: Perhaps he was on top of too much.
"Saul Bellow: Well he…I shan't go beyond his own statement, which is that he didn't commit adultery. But I think that probably having that much power is an aphrodisiac, and I don't think that there are very many people who are prepared nowadays, in these days where everything is permitted to everybody, to reject this advantage, or any advantage."
Cinton, like so many men, think they are on top of it, while actually they aren't. That's how leaders make mistakes and the world is full of leaders who thought so but weren't. Good he was found out. Hitler wasn't. That's our great regret isn't it?

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