I can recall clearly that at about the time when the dog of my youth died, I had a series of vivid dreams about him, despite the fact that I didn't learn of his death until some time later. Well, last night I had an intense "Hyde Park" dream about the neighborhood where the University of Chicago is located, and where I spent seven years of my life. Upon waking, I learned that Saul Bellow had died.
My single encounter with Bellow came during my years as Assistant Bookstacks Manager at the Regenstein Library. I was wheeling a crate of books toward the elevator and saw the doors closing, and I yelled playfully "Don't you close that door!" The door was dutifully held for me, and upon entering I found myself sharing the room with The Man himself. I wish I could report that I followed up on this promising, irreverent beginning, but the truth is I went all stiff and respectful and his amused smile reverted to the particular expression of people watching the numbers in an elevator. Saul Bellow exemplified for a lot of us what it meant to be a thinking person. Many will bridle at the idea of pairing his passing with that of Susan Sontag, but it does seem that a certain type of intellectual, from a time when books mattered more than they do today, is going the way of the dodo.