The observations, Rexler was to learn, were his whole life – his being – and love was what produced them. For each physical trait there was a corresponding feeling. Paired, pair by pair, they walked back and forth, in and out of his soul.
Of what I’ve read so far, “By the St. Lawrence” is Saul Bellow’s most emotional and poignant story. It’s also the shortest. While the potential for cynicism, as in “Cousins”, is there (and cousins are in this story, too), Rob Rexler has mostly happy memories of visiting his Aunt and Uncle and cousins in Lachine, Quebec when he was young – around seventy years ago.
He returns to Lachine as an elderly man in a limousine – a man of higher learning and intellect just like many of Bellow’s characters. The reader gets the impression that his life since Lachine may not have been the happiest although it certainly was successful.
Bellow gives the reader a sense of both awe and despair as Rexler returns to a town where most of his memories have been torn down. The sadness of growing old seems to appear in much of Bellow’s writing; however, with “By the St. Lawrence”, it’s more in the forefront.