In Search of Saul Bellow’s Montréal

Daniel Felsenthal in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

PhpThumb_generated_thumbnail (1)I leave the apartment soon after the snow begins to fall. The linoleum stairs are slick from days of muck, and in the little courtyard that separates the two wings of the housing complex, bikes are chained to the racks in defiance of winter, a blanket of white on their frames. My boyfriend, Jeff, is taking a shower. I slide across the frozen walkway. I am wearing Jeff’s hat, with ear flaps and a drawstring, as well as his gloves, which barely reach my wrists. I brought so few necessities on our trip that I can fit them easily into a small backpack. But because I was not sure what I might want to read, I carried a second piece of luggage, a black Nike duffle bag my parents gave me some years ago, which I filled with books. I have Ravelstein, the last novel by Saul Bellow, in the pocket of my puffy coat.

It is December 23, 2017. I have just read that this is the 18th birthday of the last child Saul Bellow sired, Naomi Rose, born when her father was 84. The Québecois amble on happily toward Christmas, a holiday that has probably overshadowed Naomi’s last 17 birthdays. The snowbanks flanking the path on the Rue Beaudry force pedestrians to walk in single file. Unhurried by the cold, they turn back to laugh, gesticulate, listen to one another. A police car rolls past the strip of gay bars on the Rue Sainte-Catherine. In front of the metro stop, men slouch in some indeterminate middle ground between loitering and cruising. A white-haired bundle of clothes walks past them unnoticed, changing his trajectory to intersect with mine as I walk in the opposite direction toward the car. He slides a map from somewhere in his peacoat. I realize, a moment before he begins to speak French, that his intention is to talk with me.

More here.