Friday, November 5, 2010


Saul Bellow's Herzog appears on any number of great books lists.  It's regarded as something of a masterpiece, largely because the exploration of the main character, Moses Herzog, is done through his prolific writing of unsent letters to people living and dead, famous and familiar.  Instead of fascinating me, as I expected it would, the book left me flat.  I didn't hate it, nor did I particularly enjoy it.

When the novel opens, Herzog is in the throes of a midlife crisis that coincides with his second divorce.  His literary and professorial career is on the skids and his second wife has left him for his best friend.  While he has been involved with a lovely and charismatic woman, he is unsure whether he is fit to enter into another serious relationship.  He's sunk his personal savings into a dilapidated house in the Berkshires.  His friends seem to think he's on the brink of a nervous breakdown.  Basically, Herzog is not in a very good place.

Throughout the limited action of the book, which essentially consists of Herzog unsuccessfully running away from his problems (to Martha's Vineyard, to New York, to Chicago, back to the Berkshires), Herzog is writing.  He writes letters short and long, some to people he has met, others to people long dead.  Some are quick notes to his girlfriend or his brother.  Others are lengthy diatribes to renowned intellectuals.  Through these letters we are thrust into the intricacies of Herzog's mind.  Compelling proposition, but frankly, his mind didn't really interest me.

Next up: Easter Island by Jennifer Vanderbes, a friend of mine from college.  50 pages in and I'm both intrigued by the story and impressed with her skills as a first-time novelist. 

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