- Series: Penguin Classics
- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; unknown edition (February 25, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0142437298
- ISBN-13: 978-0142437292
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 127 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Herzog (Penguin Classics) unknown Edition
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"A feast of language, situations, characters, ironies, and a controlled moral intelligence . . . Bellow’s rapport with his central character seems to me novel writing in the grand style of a Tolstoy—subjective, complete, heroic." —Chicago Tribune
"Herzog has the range, depth, intensity, verbal brilliance, and imaginative fullness—the mind and heart—which we may expect only of a novel that is unmistakably destined to last." —Newsweek
"A masterpiece" —The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
SAUL BELLOW (1915–2005) won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Humboldt’s Gift, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The only novelist to receive three National Book Awards, he was presented the National Book Award Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
PHILIP ROTH, acclaimed author of Portnoy’s Complaint, The Human Stain, and many other works of fiction, is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Medal of Arts from the White House.
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Cons - it's rambling. I tried reading it a few times before I finally got through it. I kept waiting for something to start happening. I had to get past that expectation. Stuff does happen, but it's buried under an exceptional amount of discursion. Much of what happens is just in Moses Herzog's head.
Pros - Rambling could also be considered, more charitably, as non-linear. Moses overthinks things, but this is something many people, if not all, can relate to. There is some good description. You get a certain feel for what life is like from the eyes of a particular individual. That is something I especially like from a book.
In sum - I'm glad I read it, for the most part, but I wouldn't say it left me wanting more. My guess is that a lot of people can't get past the first chapter or two but that those that do really click with it. So the rating of the book is skewed that way. (Though maybe this is true for all books.)
Within this context, I'd say that HERZOG is also a five-star book, except that it's much much better. This is because in each of these categories--entertainment, structure, insight, and beauty--HERZOG is truly superb. It's off the charts.
The narrative line of HERZOG is simple. Essentially, this presents the thoughts and experiences of Moses Herzog over a few days as he travels from New York to Martha's Vineyard, back to New York, then to Chicago and ultimately to the Berkshires.
But as Herzog travels (and writes his zany letters), Bellow provides a spectrum of many characters who are both fully realized and who offer some choice to Herzog, which is somehow a reflection of, or parallel to, his own problems. The amazing thing about this is that these choices always come out of character. No one in HERZOG is simply a thin veil worn by Bellow to preach or to fill out a point in the argument.
Can the universe be considered benevolent? Or is reality crazy, cruel, and mercenary? These are the questions that torment Herzog on his journey. Certainly, there are plenty of high-minded professorial letters, with Herzog heckling Nietzsche and so on. But many of these letters are simply educated fun and it's the people that Herzog knows who really carry and explore the argument. It's absolutely brilliant stuff.
At the same time, Bellow organizes many of these characters in "V". At one corner is Moses Herzog, a self-absorbed academic who, in his own mind, is benevolent albeit befuddled. At another is Madeline, his ex-wife, in whom craziness and selfishness mix in a single dark brew. Then, Bellow arranges his characters on this "V" so that differences gradually narrow and ultimately disappear in Herzog's brother Willie, who helps Herzog at his nadir.
Near the end of this novel, Herzog plays a game with his little daughter June: try to distinguish between the world's shortest tall man and its tallest short man, its hairiest bald man and its baldest hairy man. Ultimately, this is also what Bellow does with his characters, showing that benevolence and pragmatism can finally exist in a single decent and sane person.
The flawless structure of this novel, however, is only part of its brilliance. Here's my favorite bit of Bellow's prose. It's funny, probably a professorial reference to Whitman, and straight out of Herzog's character: "...what it means to be a man. In a city. In a century. In transition. In a mass. Transformed by science. Under organized power. Subject to tremendous controls. In a condition caused by mechanization. After the late failure of radical hopes. In a society that was no community and devalued the person. Owing to the multiplied power of numbers which made the self negligible. Which spent military billions against foreign enemies but would not pay for order at home..."
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