A Masterwork Short Story: Saul Bellow’s “The Silver Dish”

Saul Bellow’s story, “The Silver Dish,” found in Him with His Foot in His Mouth, is a masterwork of short fiction.  Published by the New Yorker in 1978, it is so worth the read.  Here’s the opening, paragraph:

What do you do about death—in this case, the death of an old father?  If you’re a modern person, sixty years of age, and a man who’s been around, like Woody Selbst, what do you do?  Take this matter of mourning, and take it against a contemporary background.  How, against a contemporary background, do you mourn an octogenarian father, nearly blind, his heart enlarged, his lungs filled with fluid, who creeps, stumbles, gives off odors, the moldiness or gassiness, of old men.  I mean!  As Woody put it, be realistic.  Think what times these are.  The papers daily give it to you—the Lufthansa pilot in Aden is described by the hostages on his knees, begging the Palestinian terrorists not to execute him, but they shoot him through the head.  Later they themselves are killed.  And still others shoot others, or shoot themselves.  That’s what you read in the press, see on the tube, mention at dinner.  We know now what goes daily through the whole human community, like a global death-peristalsis.


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