A native of Quebec, Canada, Bellow was nine when his family moved to the Humboldt Park neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, the city that formed the backdrop of many of his novels. He attended the University of Chicago but later transferred to Northwestern University. After living in New York City for many years, Bellow returned to Chicago in 1962 as a professor at the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Bellow taught on the committee for more than 30 years.
Bellairs and Marilyn Fitschen had an autographing party on February 24, 1968, at at Staver's, a small bookseller at the corner of 57th Street and Kimbark (now home to 57th Street Books) to celebrate the publication of The Pedant and the Shuffly.
Reportedly, Bellow entered the store, casually flipped through the book, sneered, and walked away (Myers recalls the snub "a derogatory snort", having been told the anecdote "right from the Bellairsian horse's mouth").
Bellow, who lived nearby at the time, "was probably too courteous for any overt comment or snubbing, and John's ego was pained that Saul walked into the store but didn't pick [it] up.... But there is a point to John's probably imagined snub: the book is slight and certainly not-serious, which is the whole point, right?”
Fitschen had previously illustrated Bellow, as well as a handful of other authors, for Joel Well's Grim Fairy Tales For Adults (1967).
- "No realistic, sane person goes around Chicago without protection." - Humboldt's Gift (1975).