Joseph O’Neill’s third novel, Netherland, was named a New York Times Notable Book for 2008. O’Neill’s previous books are The Breezes, This Is the Life, and the family history, Blood-Dark Track, which was a book of the year for The Economist and The Irish Times.
Prompted by a writing assignment, I’ve been re-reading the novels and stories of Saul Bellow for the first time in years – and I’m completely smitten all over again, only more deeply. Whereas I first fell in love with his work as a young European, I’m now seeing it with the eyes of an older person long resident in the USA, and it’s like watching a high-definition, technicolor version of a wonderful but blurry and monochrome old movie. I see much more – not only in terms of the American (cultural and topographical) details, but also the human details. (And the sentences, with their extraordinary figurative inventiveness… How did he do it?) It’s stuff that makes you feel tinglingly, fully alive.