SAUL BELLOW ON THE AMERICAN REALISTS . . .
In an interesting Paris Review interview from 1966, Bellow defends Theodore Dreiser against his critics--
"Dreiser, a realist of course, had elements of genius. He was clumsy, cumbersome, and in some respects a poor thinker. But he was rich in a kind of feeling which has been ruled off the grounds by many contemporary writers—the kind of feeling that every human being intuitively recognizes as primary. Dreiser has more open access to primary feelings than any American writer of the twentieth century . . . He somehow conveys, without much refinement, depths of feeling that we usually associate with Balzac or Shakespeare."
In the same interview, Bellow ranks Fitzgerald above Hemingway: "I don't think of Hemingway as a great novelist. I like Fitzgerald's novels better, but I often feel about Fitzgerald that he couldn't distinguish between innocence and social climbing."
As for Bellow as a realist, here are a few links: "Saul Bellow, America's Poet of Urbanity," by A.O. Scott, and "The Library of America Interviews James Wood about Saul Bellow," (pdf) (Wood: Bellow is "full of life but not traditionally realistic").