Garrison Keillor writes today in “A Writer’s Almanac” about Saul Bellow:

It’s the birthday of Saul Bellow, (books by this author) born Solomon Bellows in Lachine, Quebec, in 1915, two years after his parents emigrated from Russia. He was born in Canada, but when he was young he was smuggled across the border into Chicago, and so he grew up as an illegal immigrant. His dad was an onion importer and a bootlegger. His mom was religious, and she hoped he would be a rabbi or maybe a concert pianist. But when he was eight years old, he read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and he decided he would become a writer.

He wrote two novels that didn’t sell very well. But then he won a Guggenheim Fellowship and moved to Paris to write. And while he was there, he realized how much he loved Chicago.

So he started a new novel whose opening lines are: “I am an American, Chicago born — Chicago, that somber city — and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way.” That was The Adventures of Augie March (1953),which became his first real success and won the National Book Award. He continued writing plays, nonfiction, and more novels, including Henderson the Rain King (1959), Herzog (1964), and Humboldt’s Gift (1975).

He said, “In expressing love we belong among the undeveloped countries.” And, “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” And, “I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.'”