On reading deeper

A TRUE symbol is substantial, not accidental. You cannot avoid it, you cannot remove it. You can’t take the handkerchief from “Othello,” or the sea from “The Nigger of the Narcissus,” or the disfigured feet from “’Oedipus Rex.” You can, however, read “Ulysses” without suspecting that wood shavings have to do with the Crucifixion or that the name Simon refers to the sin of Simony or that the hunger of the Dubliners at noon parallels that of the Lestrigonians. These are purely peripheral matters; fringe benefits, if you like. The beauty of the book cannot escape you if you are any sort of reader, and it is better to approach it from the side of naivet? than from that of culture-idolatry, sophistication and snobbery. Of course it’s hard in our time to be as naïve as one would like. Information does filter through. It leaks, as we have taken to saying. Still the knowledge of even the sophisticated is rather thin, and even the most wised-up devils, stuffed to the ears with arcana, turned out to be fairly simple.

--from The Search for Symbols, a Writer Warns, Misses All the Fun and Fact of the Story, by Saul Bellow: The New York Times, February 15, 1959