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Henderson the Rain King (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 24, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Bellow's classic novel of a dissatisfied American millionaire finding himself in Africa has been newly recorded in time for the novel's 50th anniversary. Joe Barrett reads the seriocomic tale of Eugene Henderson, who flees workaday American anomie for the freeing chaos of Africa. Barrett's voice is pleasingly gravelly, rimed with experience and rising to a growling screech at particularly heated moments. Every audio recording should be so lucky as to work with Bellow's prose, but this version, directed by Keith Reynolds, is more than adequate. Barrett is to be commended for sounding like a man of Bellow's era, not his own; one can almost picture Bellow's voice emitting a similar blend of assurance and self-conscious anxiety. A Viking hardcover. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A kind of wildly delirious dream made real by the force of Bellow's rollicking prose and the offbeat inventiveness of his language."
"It made me dance."
—Henry Miller — Chicago Tribune
Top customer reviews
Henderson the Rain King departs from his usual stories for the following reasons:
1. The book takes the hero to Africa a continent which Bellow had not visited at the time of the novel's publication.
2.The author is not an intellectual but an Ivy League School millionaire who is a veteran of World War II who has won a Purple Heart for his being wounded in the Mount Cassino campaign in Italy.
3. The subject matter is ribald and Rabelaisian as the 55 year old Eugene Henderson leaves his second wife and family for a vacation in Africa.
The book includes long philosophical and unrealistic talks Henderson conducts with the medically educated King of a local tribe. Henderson confronts a lion and experiences his love of life. He becomes known as the rain king who is able to bring rain to a drought stricken region of Africa.
I prefer Bellow to stay in more familiar territory but this foray into Africa does manifest the author's ability to convey the love and excitement of life well lived. A good read!
So far I love this book as I love all of his work. "The Adventures of Augie March" is my favorite thus far. In this work, as I finished chapter 5 of 23, the protagonist is flying to Africa. He talks about looking at "clouds from both sides". Other than the famous song, I had never heard that line before. Is this where it comes from? If so, just another reason to love Saul Bellow. I will continue my reading...
As I continue reading I remember why I love Saul Bellow. He is, at times, almost poetic in his prose. As an example, he describes an older woman who has lost her great, youthful beauty, as "... dismasted, clinging to her soul in the shipwreck of her beauty." He occasionally goes on a run of nouns and or adjectives that have a sort of lyrical flow to describe a person or place. He does it less in this book than in Augie March.
This book is interesting and enjoyable. The protagonist is "Henderson". At the beginning of Chapter 17, Henderson, narrating in first person, talks about talking to the king where he is at. Henderson states he does not always undearstand the king. There are points in the book that I feel the same way as a reader.
As the story progresses Henderson does find himself as a "rain king". The story lags somewhat at this point. I felt the same thing happened in Augie March. I listened to audiobook as I read this on Kindle. The narrator on audiobook added much to my enjoyment. He added emphasis on words when needed and enhanced the humorous aspects of this novel in a way that I suspect my "inner narrator" would not have.
EDITION: The Penguin Classics paperback version is light and tight and perfect for plane, beach, chair, couch or bedtime reading. The print is small, but not oppressively so. For the price, hard to beat.
SAUL BELLOW: Every sentence of every paragraph has depth of human knowledge beyond the words of mere mortal men. Saul Bellow writes with experience, and it shows in Henderson the Rain King.
DIFFICULTY: HIGH - This book is not for beginners of literature. Although I just loaned my copy to a cousin, who's a Senior NCO in the Air Force, I may have just lost a friend.
-- SPOILERS FOLLOW, STOP NOW IF YOU CARE ABOUT THOSE TYPES OF THINGS--
STORY: It's an entirely implausible story, with a massively flawed main character that much like Malcolm Lowry's "Under the Volcano" just can't seem to get it together. But this is what makes HtRK a masterpiece. Life is not fair. Life is not easy. People often handle it very poorly, and this book exemplifies human faults, then takes it to a steroid induced maximum warp drive blow your mind level. Be prepared to both love and hate everyone in this book. Also, Saul Bellow apparently is well known for not having a clear "ending" to any of his books. This is no different and when the book is done, you are left wondering what, if anything, happened.