- Take an Extra 30% Off Any Book: Use promo code HOLIDAY30 at checkout to get an extra 30% off any book for a limited time. Excludes Kindle eBooks and Audible Audiobooks. Restrictions apply. Learn more.
Character is very much the issue in Ravelstein, whose eponymous subject is a thinly disguised version of Bellow's boon companion, the late Allan Bloom. Like Bloom, Abe Ravelstein has spent much of his career at the University of Chicago, fighting a rearguard action against the creeping boobism and vulgarity of American life. What's more, he's written a surprise bestseller (a ringer, of course, for The Closing of the American Mind), which has made him into a millionaire. And finally, he's dying--has died of AIDS, in fact, six years before the opening of the novel. What we're reading, then, is a faux memoir by his best friend and anointed Boswell, a Bellovian body-double named Chick:
Ravelstein was willing to lay it all out for me. Now why did he bother to tell me such things, this large Jewish man from Dayton, Ohio? Because it very urgently needed to be said. He was HIV-positive, he was dying of complications from it. Weakened, he became the host of an endless list of infections. Still, he insisted on telling me over and over again what love was--the neediness, the awareness of incompleteness, the longing for wholeness, and how the pains of Eros were joined to the most ecstatic pleasures.Ravelstein is a little thin in the plot department--or more accurately, it has an anti-plot, which consists of Chick's inability to write his memoir. But seldom has a case of writer's block been so supremely productive. The narrator dredges up anecdote after anecdote about his subject, assembling a composite portrait: "In approaching a man like Ravelstein, a piecemeal method is perhaps best." We see this very worldly philosopher teaching, kvetching, eating, drinking, and dying, the last in melancholic increments. His death, and Chick's own brush with what Henry James called "the distinguished thing," give much of the novel a kind of black-crepe coloration. But fortunately, Bellow shares Ravelstein's "Nietzschean view, favorable to comedy and bandstands," and there can't be many eulogies as funny as this one.
As always, the author is lavish with physical detail, bringing not only his star but a large gallery of minor players to rude and resounding life ("Rahkmiel was a non-benevolent Santa Claus, a dangerous person, ruddy, with a red-eyed scowl and a face in which the anger muscles were highly developed"). His sympathies are also stretched in some interesting directions by his homosexual protagonist. Bellow hasn't, to be sure, transformed himself into an affirmative-action novelist. But his famously capacious view of human nature has been enriched by this additional wrinkle: "In art you become familiar with due process. You can't simply write people off or send them to hell." A world-class portrait, a piercing intimation of mortality, Ravelstein is truly that other distinguished thing: a great novel. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This is a book about how to die without giving up.
The Ravelstein of the title is the flamboyant political philosophy and classics professor Allan Bloom, who before... Read more
Name dropping is the name of the game. Saul Bellow usually wrote novels of ideas. This one, his last one, is not one of those. It has no ideas, it just drops names. Read morePublished 3 months ago by H. Schneider
sublime, evolved and engrossing...finest work of dediction to friendship life and its often overlooked central themes that life is aboutPublished 4 months ago by shantanu shukla
In college I used to read a lot of Bellow. But this book appeared much later, and I somehow missed this one. Read morePublished 9 months ago by V. Roytburd
I wish I knew Abe Ravelstein (Allan Bloom). Ravelstein is portrayed as a larger than life intellectual who is brash, sensitive, quick-witted, quirky, and above all likable. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Kyle
The last novel Bellow published in his lifetime, Ravelstein is a thinly veiled portrait of Bellow's friend, teacher and author of The Closing of the American Mind, Alan Bloom. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Jason Hillenburg
Saul Below wrote a beautiful book. It is a lecture in the humanistic literature. It follows the great ideas of the last century. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Bernd Kotz
I had heard Bellow was a fine author; Ravelstein is not my idea of a fine novel. I can't give it a rating because I didn't feel like finishing it - I left at around page 100, at... Read morePublished on August 4, 2012 by Nathan White
I took this book up because I had heard Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens declare their admiration for Saul Bellow. Read morePublished on June 26, 2012 by Troy Parfitt