Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Henderson the Rain King

Saul Bellow (1915-2005)

Now this is a novel. Bellow manages to weave brilliantly complex characters with both philosophical discourse and a rollicking plot. Eugene Henderson is a brash, privileged, wealthy North easterner. He is manic, troubled and to an outsider could be considered insane. He takes shots at cats, rails against his wife, shows up in French churches hammered and wants to become a doctor in his early sixties. Henderson is endearing rather than annoying because we get to see what's going on in his head. As crazy as his act is, it kind of makes sense.
Henderson is telling his story after the fact. He's returned from Africa and is back in the US. He has a voice in head that keeps saying, "I want! I want!" He isn't satisfied and he doesn't know what it will take to fill his yearning. He meets a guide named Ramilayu who serves a protector and voice of reason. Henderson comes into contact with two tribes from whom he learns about life and what he needs to live. There is a lot of philosophizing in the Henderson , I'm talking pages and pages worth. But it's not only readable, but it's enjoyable because the characters are interacting with each other and revealing a lot about themselves in the process. Dahfu, king of the Wariri, plays on Henderson's personality to trick him into becoming the Rain King. This intense relationship forms the basis for the second half of the book.

Rating 9/10: Loved it. Also, exploding frogs.

1 comment:

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