Thursday, May 17, 2007

saul bellow

(Not yet the last man on the list). One more incredible writer, and this goes to a dear friend who said I was focusing too much on 'menopausic' women writers! That's funny. So I was thinking about this amazing novel that I read last year. I know Saul Bellow inspires adoration in some people (not necessarily misoginists) and boredom. I remember a well known writer (can't say the name) saying that it was boring to hear descriptions of vegetable markets and street anecdotes trying to convey romanticism. Well, it is true that Bellow is a great writer that has concentrated on male portraits, so it's a good thing to keep away from bias and read "Humboldt's gift', according to Nadine Gordimer, Bellow's most important novel. The novel was published in 1975, but has been reprinted by Penguin several times. The novel begins with its protagonist, Charlie Citrine, going to interview his admired writer, a poet (Humboldt) once succesful, but doomed to failure and decadence. As Charlie begins getting recognition and fame, Humboldt, modelled on the poet Delmore Schwartz (1913-1966), slowly desintegrates. The novel is plagued with incredible characters (especially the mafioso Rinaldo Cantabile; incredible scene when he destroys Charlie's car), dialogues, and description of extravagant people wandering from Chicago to New York in the fifties-sixties. Humboldt feels betrayed by Charlie, a metaphor for the american-succesful-writer, pretty much prostituting himself to the system (through his award winning biographies, Broadway Plays, etc). While Charlie goes on accumulating success after success (though his personal life is really crappy) Humboldt finishes his days broke and alcoholic... Bellow described his novel as a "comic book about death".

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