From Publishers Weekly
The Nobel laureate's second trade paperback original (following A Theft ) is a flabby novella that interweaves, and never resolves, two discrete themes. The aging, lonely and nostalgic narrator, a memory specialist, summons from the past the book's story within a story concerning his onetime acquaintance, Jewish refugee Harry Fonstein. Saved from the hands of the Nazis by an Italian underground movement spearheaded by Broadway showman Billy Rose, Fonstein immigrates to America, where he prospers--in business and in his marriage to an obese and brilliant woman. But his obsessive efforts to thank Rose are thwarted by the charismatic yet obnoxious, even deviant personality. Readers who yearn for more on the piquant WW II Bellarosa operation, or on the unsavory doings of Rose, are likewise frustrated by Bellow's characteristic philosophical digressions--savvy but ultimately self-indulgent--on Jewish assimilation in America, memory, friendship and aging: "I couldn't bring myself to go to bed just yet. One does grow weary of taking care of this man-sized doll, the elderly retiree, giving him his pills, pulling on his socks, spooning up his cornflakes, shaving his face, seeing to it that he gets his sleep." 125,000 first printing; $60,000 ad/promo.
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