Bernard Malamud: A Writer’s Life

Deborah Friedell writes:

One of the delights of Davis’s biography is realising that whatever sweetness appears in the work came unnaturally to the man. Malamud might seem to have overcome his fear of distraction when he seduced his creative-writing students – first at Oregon State University, then, as he moved up in the world, Bennington and Harvard. But there is something disconcertingly poseurish about all these loveless affairs with all these young women. ‘I deserve you,’ he wrote to one of them. He had decided that a writer – certainly a great one – should have affairs, even if he didn’t really want to, for the good of the work. An artist must have beauty. Look at Bellow! In Dubin’s Lives, the novel which Davis claims is the most intensely autobiographical, a biographer’s wife knows not to feel threatened by her husband’s infidelity: ‘Everything sooner or later goes back to your biographies. That’s your grand passion – if you could fuck your books you’d have it made.’ Often enough the girls would find things they’d said or written to Malamud tucked into his next novel.

(LRB 15 November 2007)

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