Bellow's Obsession | Letters | Chicago Reader

Bellow's Obsession 

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Dear Sir or Madam:

Novelist Saul Bellow has an obsession with black crime combined with an unhealthy interest in African American sex, at least according to your article of February 18 called "A Writer's Story" [Hot Type]. However, your article missed the most bizarre and repellent example of Bellow's interest in black sex and crime, an example which appears in Bellow's novel The Dean's December.

In The Dean's December the narrator (obviously Bellow's alter ego) writes about a very thinly fictionalized version of the Hernando Williams case. Hernando Williams was a young black man who kidnapped, beat, raped and murdered a Lamaze instructor who Bellow calls "Sally Sathers." Bellow's narrator writes that the victim in the Williams case may have physically enjoyed being raped.

As it happens, the transcript of the Williams trial tells us a lot about the thoughts of the real "Sally Sathers" during the last hours of her life. We have her words and acts as reported in Williams's detailed confession, we have the testimony of several witnesses who heard her trying to escape and we have the testimony of her husband and sister-in-law, since Williams allowed her to phone them while she was being held captive. Needless to say, it is certain that "Sally Sathers" did not enjoy being kidnapped, beaten, raped or murdered.

Nevertheless Saul Bellow, the eminent Jewish novelist, has written that a Jewish wife and mother may have enjoyed being raped, terrorized and otherwise abused by an African American man. Obviously Bellow, Nobel Prize or not, is a very sick person.

Sharon M. Springer

S. Dearborn

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