But Bellow fans should not yet start camping out in front of bookstores (if they can find any within a day’s drive) awaiting their first editions. Although the lost last paragraph has come to light at last, there still seem to be numerous murky complications within the Bellow estate which could delay publication, perhaps for many years to come.
Those who have read the manuscript describe it as a tale of sibling rivalry – cordial on the surface, but seething with Freudian passions underneath – among the sons of a Nobel prize-winning philosopher, Helius Claymore. Following Claymore’s death, the brothers – Horace, Quincy and Jack – discover that their memories of Claymore are very different – so much so, that each – in his own way – undergoes an existential crisis that questions the basis of his entire life. Harold Bloom called The Three Corbies “a postlude to King Lear.”
The Three Corbies’ dénouement is a set piece describing an event at the 92nd Street Y, following the publication of a somewhat unflattering memoir of his father by the eldest son, Horace. All three brothers join in a discussion panel and almost come to blows as it becomes clear how wide the gaps are between their divergent views of Helius Claymore. Horace, who has become a psychoanalyst, sees Claymore as having been a cold egoist. Quincy, now an editor of right-wing non-fiction, says his father was “a political butterfly,” whose seemingly strong opinions only echoed those of his wife and his circle of friends at any particular time. The youngest son, Jack – a potter in the Berkshires – remembers Claymore as nothing more or less than a wise and loving paterfamilias. To the distress of some of the audience at the 92nd Street Y, and to the delight of others, unable to defend Claymore’s reputation against the onslaughts of his older brothers, Jack finally breaks down in tears.
Here is a facsimile of the missing last paragraph of The Three Corbies, as it appeared in The New York Review of Books of March 10, 2016.