Novelists In Christian Focus

John Updike, by Kenneth Hamilton, Kathleen Raine, by Ralph J. Mills, Jr., Günter Grass, by Norris W. Yates, and Saul Bellow, by Robert Detweiler (Eerdmans, 1968, 48 pp. each, paper, $.85 each), are reviewed by Ann Paton, professor of English, Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

For those of us who find most literary criticism blurred, slanted, or truncated because its angle of vision is not our own, the Eerdmans series on “Contemporary Writers in Christian Perspective” answers a felt need. Under the editorship of Roderick Jellema, the booklets have in common their length (forty-eight pages), their apparatus (a selected bibliography of works and criticism), and their aim: to bring major writers into Christian focus at a high level of perception and scholarship. Because each essayist is free to go about achieving this goal in his own way, the series exhibits a refreshing variety of approaches and styles.

Robert Detweiler, obviously enthusiastic about his subject, measures Saul Bellow’s stature and finds him, like that other Saul, head and shoulders above not only the rest of Israel but Gentile novelists as well. Bellow is the representative Western man for whom the old categories of Christian and Jew are losing their absolute validity, whose writing is informed by both Judaism and Christianity, and whose aim is to reconcile and unify. Because he speaks the word of affirmation, Bellow invites viewing from the Christian perspective, which, in its via-death-to-life patterns, is also his own. With special reference to Herzog and The Adventures of Augie March, Detweiler analyzes five elements of Bellow’s art—fictional perspective, language and image, setting, characterization, and action—and shows ...

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