Books: A Laureate for Saul Bellow

Why should writers wish to be rated —seeded—like tennis players? Handicapped like racehorses? What an epitaph for a novelist: "I won all the polls!"

Long before the Swedish Academy chose him as the seventh* American to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, Saul Bellow was in a fine position to judge—and make light of—official literary honors. He had won most of them already: honorary degrees, citations from governments and academies, three National Book Awards (a record), and, last May, a Pulitzer Prize for Humboldt 's Gift. At a brief press conference after the Nobel announcement, Bellow remarked characteristically, "I'm glad to get...