Saul Bellow (1915-1905)
Reading this book made me feel like I was back in grad school. There were times when I'd sit in a small classroom with seven or eight other students and a professor and feel profoundly dumb. I'm not talking about how I felt in math class where I didn't care whether I knew what was going on, I was legitimately interested in the subject matter and tried to understand it and still had no clue what other people were talking about. Saul Bellow's command of language and a turn of phrase is something at which to marvel. His knowledge base is vast. He delves into psychology, history, sociology, literature, all in telling the tale of Moses E. Herzog. The narrator is omniscient, but has the voice of someone who could have been friends with Moses or perhaps even Moses looking at his own life. Much of the story is told through Moses's letters that he writes to just about everyone but never sends.
We meet Moses after his second wife, Maddy, has left him for former friend Valentine Gersbach. Moses is an academic with lots of knowledge, a relatively impressive career but he's fallen on hard times. His letters touch on his personal relationships, the direction of the country and society as a whole and most notably his nostalgia for the his upbringing in Montreal and Chicago. It's a tribute to Bellow that there really isn't any action in the entire novel. Moses, in his darkest hour, a time where he finds clarity in his life, nearly rocks the boat, but he backs off. Most of what the reader gets is up in Moses's head. There are a ton of real show stopping lines, the kind of phrase that makes you think, "I could have never thought of that in 100 years."
RATING: 7.5/10 Not much action but lots of good writing.