This fine example of how to graciously give feedback to a less established artist comes from Saul Bellow: Letters, which I’m reading now:
December 26, 1957
Dear Philip Roth—
Manuscripts around here shift and wander in huge piles, like the dunes. Yours turned up today, and I apologize to you for my disorder. It hurts me more.
My reaction to your story was on the positive side of the scale, strongly. But mixed, too. I liked the straightness of it, the plainness about biology. That kind of thing suits me to the ground. I thought Moe was excellent; Pa, too. A company of Japanese committing hari-kari, though, I wasn’t sure about. A great idea, but palpably Idea. I have a thing about Ideas in stories. Camus’ The Plague was an IDEA. Good or bad? Not so hot, in my opinion. With you the Idea gains ground fast, easily. It conquers. What of Moe?
Look, try Henry Volkening at 522 Fifth Ave. My agent. A very good one, too. Best of luck. And forgive my having the mss. so long. I should have read it at once. But I don’t live right.