[Ebook] ➧ Humboldt's Gift Author Saul Bellow – Saudionline.co.uk

Humboldt's Gift summary Humboldt's Gift, series Humboldt's Gift, book Humboldt's Gift, pdf Humboldt's Gift, Humboldt's Gift 2e00b603b7 The Novel, For Which Bellow Won The Pulitzer Prize For Fiction In , Is A Self Described Comic Book About Death, Whose Title Character Is Modeled On The Self Destructive Lyric Poet Del Schwartz Charlie Citrine, An Intellectual, Middle Aged Author Of Award Winning Biographies And Plays, Contemplates Two Significant Figures And Philosophies In His Life Von Humboldt Fleisher, A Dead Poet Who Had Been His Mentor, And Rinaldo Cantabile, A Very Much Alive Minor Mafioso Who Has Been The Bane Of Humboldt S Existence Humboldt Had Taught Charlie That Art Is Powerful And That One Should Be True To One S Own Creative Spirit Rinaldo, Charlie S Self Appointed Financial Adviser, Has Always Urged Charlie To Use His Art To Turn A Profit At The Novel S End, Charlie Has Managed To Set His Own Course


10 thoughts on “Humboldt's Gift

  1. says:

    Wrestling match between Vita Contemplativa and Vita Activa Let s be honest Humboldt s Gift is exhausting It is a masterpiece, a brilliant study of a man fighting the world and his inner demons by withdrawing from active participation, but it leaves the reader frequently frustrated with the narrator, Charles Citrine, and his non response to the problems he causes by contemplating life rather than living it actively Using a similar idea to the one explored in Dangling Man, it goes further, showing a person who is not forced to passivity due to external circumstances, but one who chooses to be passive because he rejects the mechanisms of modern life.The dramatic conflict is inherent in the choice of character and setting a man who loves poetry and aesthetic life spends his time in Chicago That, he recognises himself, is a contradiction, an oxymoron But he does not break free from the pattern He rather accepts it as the raw material he has to work with Such information about corruption, if you had grown up in Chicago, was easy to accept It even satisfied a certain need It harmonized with one s Chicago view of society Crookedness is an art form, invented in America, the narrator reflects, watching his fellow citizens engage in an epic fight to win the fame and fortune they think they are entitled to All means are justified, even celebrated They listened with joy as he told his tale of unhappiness and persecution He spilled dirt, spread scandal, and uttered powerful metaphors What a combination Fame gossip delusion filth and poetic invention.Even then shrewd Humboldt knew what he was worth in professional New York Bellow indeed delivers a brilliant study of grown up men playing gangsters and hurt poets, putting on a very loud and visible show, like three year olds howling and showing off their scraped knees But the narrator refuses to play the game He gets bored, even thinks of writing a study on the impact of boredom on world history Boredom is an instrument of social control Power is the power to impose boredom, to command stasis, to combine this stasis with anguish The real tedium, deep tedium, is seasoned with terror and with death This boredom that he can t shake off in the presence of his overactive environment makes him an easy target for energetic people, celebrating the spirit of money that is a symbol for modern day America His ex wife plays a court game with him that makes Jarndyce and Jarndyce in Bleak House look harmless Perpetuation of the case is her ultimate goal, and Citrine can t do anything to stop her His girlfriend wants to marry him, and plays a seduction game, while using up his last financial resources and dumping him when he has lost his money Nothing he can do but mourn Passively taking the blow, he hides in a pension to meditate and search for contact with the spiritual world, which is the only one he can control and shape according to his aesthetic needs His relationship to his brother is equally based on the contrast between active and contemplative interpretation of the world He is the thinker, the romantic who cherishes family relations without financial or dynastic ideas, whereas his brother is the incorporation of the successful American business man, always needing an immediate purpose, and an adversary to fight in order to release his energies This visit of mine, with its intimations of final parting, bothered him He acknowledged that I had done right to come but he loathed me for it, too I could see it his way Why did I come flapping around him with my love, like a death pest There was no way for me to win, because if I hadn t come here he d have held it against me He needed to be wronged He luxuriated in anger, and he kept accounts Not even his poet friend Humboldt responds to Charles Citrine s need for passive, intellectual friendship After an act of impulsive brotherhood, including a blank cheque exchange, Humboldt cashes in thousands of dollars from Citrine, whereas he himself puts Humboldt s cheque in a drawer, from where it disappears at some point He does nothing about it.Money flows out of his hands incessantly, and he is not capable to negotiate for himself without the support from his overactive part time friends, thus demonstrating the flaw in his worldview The most colourful character in this respect is Rinaldo Cantabile, a typical gangster with a crooked heart, who strongly reminded me of Mack and the boys in Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, even though Cantabile plays a bigger game In his annoying habit of disturbing Citrine s contemplations, he is similar to Mack s insistence on making life better for Doc, thus getting him from bad to worse instead You I said Yes , said Rinaldo Cantabile, You thought I was in jail Thought, and wished And hoped How did you track me here, and what do you want You re sore at me Okay, I admit that was a bad scene But I am here to make up for it Was that the purpose in coming here What you can do for me is go away I d like that best What Citrine really wants for himself is a world immersed in literature and poetry His reaction to everyday annoyances is always accompanied by a comparison to his favourite authors Frustrated with being stuck with Cantabile in traffic, he transforms the experience into an adaptation of T.S.Eliot The Thunderbird, puffing fumes, was beginning to block traffic Because I had been immersed for much of the day in Humboldt s life, and because Humboldt had in turn been immersed in T.S Eliot, I thought as he might have done of the violet hour when the human engine waits like a taxi throbbing, waiting But I cut this out The moment required my full presence He has the same impulse when his girlfriend leaves him, but realises that it is of no use to explode in metaphorical language to express and soothe his hurt feelings What good would it do me to tell Renata off Fierce and exquisite speeches, perfect in logic, mature in judgment, deep in wise rage, heavenly in poetry, were all right for Shakespeare but they wouldn t do a damn bit of good for me The desire for emission still existed but the reception was lacking for my passionate speech The contemplative life Citrine wishes to lead is not compatible with the reality he faces, and in the end, he needs the help of his friend Humboldt, from beyond the grave, to get out of the massive trouble his detachment from the world has brought Humboldt, being able to merge the active and contemplative life into a complete experience, messy but rich, takes the active steps required to turn artistic ideas and sketches into real successes In the end, it gives Citrine the opportunity to clear up his business before retiring to the hermitage of his preference.What is the message of the novel The frustration of a creative man in an environment of business and over activity The search for truth underneath the surface of celebrated crime and crookedness Or the fundamental right to leave the circus if you find it boring in its showy repetitiveness I changed my mind several times over the course of the slow reading I am not sure I have a definite answer yet I will be retreating to my cave to think.


  2. says:

    I m going to rave a little here Do forgive me in advance This is my second reading of this masterpiece It was shortly after publication of Humboldt s Gift that Bellow won the Nobel Prize That in itself usually doesn t mean much, mostly the literature awards are given out for political reasons these days, but I think in the case of Bellow Oslo got it right From the start the storytelling is brilliant and it never flags Charlie Citrine, a young man filled with a love of literature, writes to his hero poet Von Humboldt Fleisher from his home in Appleton, Wisconsin, and is invited to visit the great man in Greenwich Village Citrine comes to New York just as Humboldt is hitting his sole crest of popularity because of his book of ballads Humboldt, however, soon loses it all drinking and medicating himself in a manner that can only be called suicidal No wonder he s perpetually blocked now In the meantime, Charlie Citrine, his protege, writes a hit Broadway play which is made into a hit Hollywood movie Citrine is swimming in money And Citrine s success can only be viewed by Humboldt in his madness as a betrayal Humboldt comes to loathe Citrine whom he accuses of using his life as the basis for the main character of his play Von Trenck When Citrine wins the Chevalier de L gion d honneur from the French government, Humboldt hits the ceiling Shoveleer , he writes, Your name is lesion Charlie Citrine is one of the most fascinating characters to emerge from late 20th century American literature What I admire so much about this book is its unflagging narrative thrust Line by line it satisfies the reader on an almost physical level The humor is laugh out loud The erudition makes me giddy Just how is it possible for Bellow to incorporate so much knowledge about literature into the book and not end up with some deadly boring piece of tripe It s miraculous Citrine is always talking about his reading Rudolf Steiner, Santayana, Gide, Aristotle, and so on which is deftly incorporated so as to reflect upon his own tribulations and those of the other characters This is quite a rogue s gallery, too, consisting of both the high and the low mobsters crooked judges writers literary chislers, harridan exes lawyers Rubenesque golddiggers, old Russian bath house guys blue collar guys virtually all ethnicities and predilections as only a great American city like Chicago can produce I ve read all of Bellow s novels and this I think is his best one I even prefer it to The Adventures of Augie March, which is saying something This is also a great novel for those who want to know how to write a great novel With this text in hand and one s own considerable talent on tap, why, you can t miss It s all right here in black and white Read it, please, and let me know what you think.


  3. says:

    Humboldt is a poet, once revered, eventually ridiculed Charlie Citrine, the narrator, was his acolyte, friend and enemy Citrine, of an inferior talent, enjoys much greater commercial success than Humboldt This anomaly is the foundation for much soul searching about the relationship between the artist and commercial success in America Humboldt fulfils society s most cherished expectation of the poet he goes nuts and dies ignominiously In other words, he s too delicate for this world Something we all feel in our most sensitive moments Poets do what we d sometimes like to over indulge sensibility to the point of cutting themselves off from the outside world and we perhaps honour them for this as much as we do for their poetry Bellow here attempts, not very successfully, the Nick Gatsby divide in this novel he has a prosaic narrator recounting the larger than life character, Humboldt But a failing of this novel is that Bellow can never keep his own voice muffled for long and soon the narrator Charlie Citrine and Humboldt become almost the same character Charlie ends up as eccentrically broken as Humboldt And the title s gift is a rather lame and implausible denouement There s the most extraordinary, unheard of poetry buried in America, but none of the conventional means known to culture can even begin to extract itthe agony is too deep, the disorder too big for art enterprises undertaken in the old way So says Charlie But this passage is much applicable to DeLillo s novels than Bellow s I m not sure I ever really felt Bellow was getting to the heart of this buried poetry DeLillo is actually much better at finding the poetry in our technological, media circus age because he s better able to project out beyond himself DeLillo shows where Bellow tells Bellow often ends up sounding like the patient on the psychotherapist s couch, gorgeously eloquent but telling rather than dramatizing Saul Bellow would rank pretty high as nightmare husband He likes the sound of his own voice too much He holds forth brilliantly but there s a sense he doesn t listen much He tends to see others as appendages or anecdotes Bellow s novels are always about Saul Bellow, Saul Bellow and his relationship with the world, Saul Bellow and his dysfunctional relationship with women All the novels I ve read by him have had the same narrator There s a lack of versatility in his voice The supporting cast of characters are often like showcases for how brilliantly and wittily Bellow can write than any kind of approximation of real people His most successful novel was Herzog because he sent up his rampant egotism in a brilliantly witty fashion Bellow is probably a much better writer than he is novelist His prose is fantastic his plots often half baked and flimsy This one just scrapes four stars because of the quality of the prose as a novel I found it essentially inspired and daft in equal measure.


  4. says:

    Of the three times I have now read Bellow, my initial first reactions have always been the same, that this could flourish into the quintessential great American novel, where he even gives me a larger proportion of encouragement over the likes of DeLillo and Roth In the end, I found Humboldt s Gift better than The Adventures of Augie March , but not quite as good as Herzog At least I can say I found myself a decent pulitzer winner, of which, my record isn t exactly that positive One thing I found during most of the novel s duration is actually how Un American it started to feel, strange to say that considering the early parts take place in Chicago and New York, untypical of the way conven tional American fiction generally reads It s almost like Mr Bellow uses and provokes double meanings throughout the narrative Its complexity of intellectual argument, which I found greater than the other two I have read, is essentially like a Continental breakfast, rather than steak and eggs Where some of his humorous and sharply drawn eccentric mix of characters felt somehow English in nature.Humboldt s Gift is no doubts a work conceived on a grand scale, this is both a blessing and a bit of a problem, as parts of the middle third slowly had me taking a dip in interest, where I plodded along in a slump just hoping for things to pick up, which did happen, eventually, it was just a right old slog to get there It was a case of the starter and the dessert being better on the palate than some, but not all, of the main course So then, the nuts and bolts of the story a certain Charlie Citrine, like Mr Bellow a Chicago raised author, just about 60, to the world rich and famous Pulitzer prize winner and Chevalier of the L gion d Honneur But as the book begins he is at a moment in life of crisis His wife and a crew of hard hitting lawyers are screwing him for all they can get as a divorce settlement what little he has left is being grabbed by his mistress and her appalling mother, and he is being bullied by a small time gangster one of the novels best characters He often dwells back his youth, where he was taken up by the poet Von Humboldt Fleisher, a one book success unfortunately, who desired only to be supported by society in the state that genius should have been accustomed to And society s failure to provide this had driven him to drink, madness, and finally death in squalor Charlie has become rich and famous on the basis of work less notable than Humboldt s, but he, too, is ripe for destruction Humboldt will then positively impacts Charlie s plight from beyond the grave The narrative for the most part I found full of shrewdness and vitality, driven by an energetic, sharp eyed Bellow It s a novel that takes it s multivitamins on a regular basis, and where the brisk dialogue heavy sections really showcase his gift for letting flowing conversions, or in some cases heated arguments, take as long as they need to take It also moved me far than I expected, but it still remained remarkably funny in large chunks It s difficult to say whether I would class Humboldt and Charlie as true close friends that would gladly take a bullet for one another, as they do have their altercations, but by the end, both men do have a big impact on the reader It might be, to me anyway, too long for it s own good, but by it s conclusion, I did sit with a smile of satisfaction on my face.


  5. says:

    In today s reality, if anybody wishes to taste life in America through the late thirties till the early seventies the turbulent days and the scintillating nights associated with it the glint and the glamour, the mirth and murder, affluence and privation going hand in gloves, I would recommend Humboldt s Gift by Saul Bellow Told in the first person narrative choice, this mammoth novel is mostly a chronology of the author s reminiscences, some of which are dramatically hectic, painfully poignant and utterly frisky and frolicsome Surprisingly enough, in all its five hundred and odd pages there is neither any chapter heading nor a sub title offering a clue to the reader Considering this to be the Nobel Laureate s finest creation, Humboldt s Gift is immensely entertaining, chock full of alacrity and anecdotes to warm up the coldest of hearts Also, as a narrator of events, Bellow is convincingly descriptive, going into every detail to stamp into the reader s mind, incidents that look place decades ago in a near cinematic flavour Fancy the array of characters that has come to play their roles in the book From an all American avante garde poet who rose to the height of his fame but remained unrecognized by the American hierarchy during his lifetime and had to die a miserable death, alone, penniless and uncared for in a solitary cell Von Humboldt Fisher to the crazy Italian from the Al Capone era whose only weapon was Threat in all its criminal assortment Rinaldo Cantabiles Then there is Denise, the narrator s estranged wife whose ultimate objective was to wrench out her erring husband s liver and fry it with plenty of onion before savoring the delicacy, may be, with some white anchovy sauce Take the case of lawyer Forrest Tomcheck who had bully refinements, and was fond of befriending his clients to a superlative degree before cutting them up As there are no principal characters as such in the novel, all the people appearing in its pages augment the central theme individually as well as collectively Nor did the author spare such personalities like Ike Eisenhower or Harry S Truman Mind you, this was not done merely for name dropping It had a purpose and that has been well achieved Also, there is a friend, Pierre Thaxter who is warmly devoted to his extended family consisting of many children by many wives across Europe and the continent or Renata, the lascivious lady friend of narrator Charles Citrine who is perpetually in search of her undisclosed father, siphoning her lover s fortune in pricey inter continental flights every now and again SAUL BELLOW In portraying Renata s beauty and her lifestyle, the author has devoted quite a number of paragraphs, always paying glowing tributes to her feminine charms, describing the fine set of tooth revealed during an enchanting smile or the shape of her nape occasionally exposed while knotting her lovely hair While admitting himself as a nymph troubled man and a person of frenzied longings chasing a gold digger Charles Citrine, the narrator, nevertheless admires the girl s feelings for him though occasionally, he felt betrayed and remained depressed for months on end Describing her on the first date on a wet, gloomy day, she wore a plastic raincoat divided into red, white and black bands with a broad, bent brim hat and a banana fragrant lipstick In short, she looked irresistible and Citrine took her to a hotel room paid at a Conference Rate hourly basis , downing martinis However, when the girl fell sick and intoxicated, Citrine felt it his duty to protect her instead of the usual staff a lecher may make Besides, he avows one could not make it without love and safely reaches her home Therein lies the soulful tackling of an otherwise sordid affair by the great novelist.


  6. says:

    The labyrinthine mental processes of an exceptional man of letters challenging, uneven, extremely self conscious in the end, of course, Literary I have snoozed through many a crisis while millions died laments our Hero Our overthinking, overcompensating, overwhelming hero He s a regular Danish prince indeed most of his life is seen through a Shakespearean filter that has to do with complications than tragedy or romance.There are amazing sentences and a wholly exuberant prose in this, a lauded Pulitzer ironically, or perhaps not, the protagonist has not one but two Pulitzers under his belt Hmmm Medal of Something I forgot winner What I agree with in all of this is very minimal the dude lives in an entirely different stratosphere as you and me I agree with his thoughts on the prestige of significant failure beauty in a breakdown and all that Sure But the P.O.V is both the plus and minus of the novel It is very selfish and self involved Rabbit Angstrom, anyone Just superior and entirely involved in gilded but droll experiences The dead exist only to satisfy our main man, Charlie Citrine, it seems Ugh it s overly long, tedious, etc For all it s dramatic efforts, I wasn t left impressed.


  7. says:

    Questo l anno degli americani difficilini, dopo Updike ho sfidato un poderoso Bellow Non voglio dire difficili perch insomma sono narratori vecchia scuola e quanto a intrico verbale un Faulkner se li mangia a colazione sono penne incantevoli, renitenti a tessere con semplicit l ordito delle loro trame Non parlo soltanto della linearit narrativa, s insomma so bene che c vita oltre Mark Twain, ma della tendenza a gonfiare oltremisura situazioni riassumibili in tre righe, del vizietto incontrollabile della digressione o meglio della ridondanza concettuale Premetto ci perch oggi autori come Saul Bellow sembrano destinati a ingiallire nelle librerie antiquarie non tutti se la sentono di investire tempo prezioso in letture poco accomodanti, che viaggiano sempre in terza con la mano marmorizzata sul cambio Ebbene, sotto un palt anni 70 avete presente quegli arancioni assurdi c un corpo mozzafiato l impianto vetusto, certo sorpassato dalle celerit contemporanee, non inficia un solo grammo di bellezza La storia piuttosto orizzontale di Charlie Citrine che se la vede con lo spettro dell amico Humboldt e gli amori infelici ha degli spiragli di luce vivida, il dono di comporre con grazia pittorica idee e parole C una introspezione europea dei personaggi Come dichiara il vecchio Humboldt personaggio magnifico, carnale e poetico in una delle sue tirate Il mondo guarda in faccia gli americani e dice Non venite a raccontarmi che questa gente, cos florida e allegra, soffre davvero Eppure, l abbondanza democratica ha le sue singolari difficolt L America un esperimento di Dio La gente florida e allegra del libro di Bellow scrittori, editori, grandi donne, parassiti e ruffiani cospira contro l inalterabile Citrine e la sua inesplicabile attrazione verso il lato peggiore dell umanit C una ineffabile vitalit poetica nei peggiori, la letteratura ce lo insegna da millenni e non smette di farlo noi continueremo ad innamorarci di iracondi poeti e sordidi approfittatori fino alla parola fine.


  8. says:

    Last night I dreamt that Saul Bellow was still alive, and that I met him Met him at the Chicago branch of something called the Hitler Piedmont Bank I know, I know, it was a dream, so it had to be a little fucked up I started to gush, but of all the phrases, characters and scenes of his that I admire, the only thing I praised was his description, in this novel, of Humboldt s mud bespattered station wagon as looking like a Flanders staff car.


  9. says:

    Roman a Clef a Trois Humboldt s Gift is generally recognised to be a roman a clef, in which the titular character is based on the poet Del Schwartz, an early friend and mentor of Saul Bellow.However, there are three levels at which the roman a clef operates within the novel itself.Firstly, Von Humboldt Fleisher accuses the narrator, Charlie Citrine, of using his life as the inspiration for his commercially successful play, Von Trenck which was later turned into a film I don t say he actually plagiarised, but he did steal something from me my personality He built my personality into his hero Then, Humboldt writes a treatment for a movie apparently based on the life and loves of Charlie Citrine Lastly, the novel as a whole wraps all of this up in a fiction inspired by Von Humboldt Del Schwartz, although Bellow Citrine can t resist the temptation to make the novel primarily his own story even if there is much self mockery in the novel.Noble MadnessCitrine, like his mentor, is obsessed by the concept of the author as noble Mankind is stunned by the Exuberance and Beauty of certain individuals When I was young I believed that being an intellectual assured me of a higher life Humboldt and I were rich in abilities, in sexual feeling, rich in mind and invention highly gifted Alfred Kazin would write that Del Schwartz had a feeling for literary honor, for the highest standards, that one can only call noble he loved the nobility of example presented by the greatest writers of our century, and he wanted in this sense to be noble himself, a light unto the less talented So he suffered, unceasingly, because he had often to disappoint himself because the world turned steadily irrational and incomprehensible because the effort of his intellectual will, of his superb intellectual culture, was not always enough to sustain him He was the prisoner of his superb intellectual training, a victim of the logic he respected beyond anything else He was of the generation that does not come easily to concepts of the absurd Unfortunately, as both novel and biography make clear, Del s nobility came at the cost of a little madness.Robert Lowell wrote a poem in memory of Del that contains these lines Underseas fellows, nobly mad, We talked away our friends Let Joyce and Freud,the Masters of Joy,be our guests here, you said Citrine describes Humboldt in the Thirties as an avant garde writer, the first of a new generation,handsome, fair, large, serious, witty,learnedHumboldt had been great handsome, high spirited, buoyant, ingenious, electrical, nobleThe guy had it allHumboldt revealed to me new ways of doing things I was ecstatic I envied his luck, his talent, and his fame In Greenwich Village, Humboldt would talk to Citrine, his protege, about Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bukharin, the Moscow trials, Sidney Hook s From Hegel to Marx , Lenin s State and Revolution , the poems of Yeats, Hegel s Phenomenology , Marx portrait of Louis Bonaparte, Hegel s World Historical Individual, the interpreter of the Spirit, the mysterious leader who imposed on Mankind the task of understanding him, etc Later, Citrine confides in one of his lovers, Those were intoxicating books and I was in the thick of beauty and wild about goodness and thought and poetry and love Wasn t that mere adolescence The Savage Noble In the late Forties he Humboldt started to sink Citrine viewed him as a poet, thinker, problem drinker, pill taker, man of genius, manic depressive, intricate schemer, success story, he once wrote poems of great wit and beauty, but what had he done lately Humboldt had become a savage noble In contrast, in the early Fifties I myself became famous I even made a pile of money Ah, money, the money Humboldt held the money against me He was a fiery Failure and I was a newborn Success In the last years of his life when he wasn t too depressed to talk, wasn t locked up in a loony bin, he went about New York saying bitter things about me and my million dollars What kind of writer or intellectual makes that kind of dough a Keynes A genius in economics, a prince in Bloomsbury The Commercial StuffWhat confounds both writers is success, particularly financial success How to achieve it, but importantly, how to maintain and retain it And how not to lose your integrity to wealth Don t be taken in by the Broadway glamour and the commercial stuff It filled me with guilt and shame If Scott Fitzgerald had been a Protestant, said Humboldt, Success wouldn t have damaged him so much Humboldt even pickets Citrine s play, a la the pomo academic Tom LeClair with his gang of pals and rooters , carrying a picket sign saying, The Author of This Play is a Traitor Citrine s ex wife, Denise, accuses Citrine of having delusions about being a marvelous noble person in contrast to inhabitants of the moronic inferno.Cantabile, a small time Chicago mobster who Citrine thinks of as one of the mental rabble of the wised up world , says of Citrine You don t care about the things that other people knock themselves out over You have contempt You re arrogant, Citrine You despise us Us People of the world What good is all this reading if you can t use it in the crunch Was this art versus America In ancient times poetry was a force, the poet had real strength in the material world What kind of American would I be if I were innocent about money, I ask you Why Because money is freedom, that s why Americans had an empty continent to subdue You couldn t expect them to concentrate on philosophy and art as well Erotica and EsotericaCitrine reads Rudolf Steiner s anthroposophy heavily in an attempt to understand the spirit His priorities are both erotic and esoteric I was by inclination the sort of person who needed microcosmic macrocosmic ideas, or the belief that everything that takes place in man has world significance At the same time, circumstances lure him into the world of business and money making, even if he believes that all capitalism is self interest, greed and fraud Business is about action rather than contemplation, the intellect or the spirit.His business partner, Thaxter, says, I come to Chicago and find you bang in the middle of things Thaxter confirms, This is life, Charlie, not literature Citrine is both practical and impractical in love He is a big important clever man going around so eager from woman to woman For women I had this utopian emotional love aura and made them feel I was a cherishing man Sure, I d cherish them in the way they all dreamed of being cherished Yet his highly passionate romances end in marriage, and inevitably in divorce and expensive litigation that strangles the next romance And creates the next need for funds A Certain Intricacy and Elegance of Construction Humboldt s movie scenario gives his opinion of me foolishness, intricacy, wasted subtlety, a loving heart, some kind of disorganised genius, a certain elegance of construction And these same words can be applied to the novel itself In it, we get Citrine and therefore Bellow warts and all, the subject of their own mockery Towards the end of the novel, he tells Kathleen, Humboldt s ex wife, I was just the worm that spit out the silk thread ADDENDUM This Eccentric Construction This is how Bellow described the novel in a letter to a philosopher in 1976 It is a comical and very American examination of the cares and trials of civilised people in a civilised country These cares are by now plainly ludicrous and one can t be serious about them The ultimate absurdity is that it is the spiritual matters, which alone deserve our seriousness, that are held to be absurd Perhaps it was wrong of me to put this longing for spiritual fruit in a comic settingBut I followed my hunch as a writer, trusting that this eccentric construction would somehow stand steady SR vs JRThis is part of the blurb for William Gaddis JR , the buried book since acclaimed for its 770 pages of unattributed dialogue that won the National Book Award in 1976, while Humboldt s Gift won the Pulitzer Prize and Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature JR is a book of comparable magnitude, substance, and humor to The Recognitions a rushing, raucous look at money and its influence, at love and its absence, at success and its failures, in the magnificently orchestrated circus of all its larger and smaller than life characters a frantic, forlorn comedy about who uses and misuses whom SOUNDTRACK view spoiler Velvet Underground European Son Ren e Is Crying hide spoiler


  10. says:

    I don t know what it is, but Bellow s books just go down easy for me I can and have read them in one or two or five very long sittings, enjoying myself enough to just refuse to take my eyes off the page There s something about his protagonists the nervy, learned, spunky, earthy, thoughtful and hyper attentive 30 40 year old males which seems to resonate with me over and over again I seriously thought about making a special category on my bookshelves for old drunk wannabe writer books and it IS a genre but I suppose I d rather not Demeaning I enjoyed this chatty, fluid, easily digested novel each and every time I picked it up Bellow on the page not sure what he d be like in person, though I suspect it wouldn t be all that different is an idea companion to read in a place that is somewhat noisy, a little folksy, with a bit of bustle Local pizza shop at middday, while making phone calls if you re into that perversity , on the train, that kind of thing Bellow is effortlessly introspective while being open, grand, educated and beautifully exact in his perceptions He s essentially a chatty dude from Chi town who got seduced by Greenwich Village in full swing and never looked back We are all the better for it I especially had to pick this one up because it fictionalizes an already rather interesting and larger than life figure who I happen to adore already That man would be Del Schwartz, author of In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and several books of now underrated excellent poetry Schwartz is the eponymous Humboldt and the character is much like the actual man obsessive, erudite, manic, manipulative, visionary, charismatic, self destructive, energetic, eloquent, and fucked up beyond belief All night gin fuled stream of consciousness captivating monologues don t twitch Bellow himseld throws than a few of these adjectival pockets together without punctuation in a near Beat stylistic choice which always warms the cockles of my heart which somehow include Plato, Dostoevsky, Harry Hopkins, Frank Sinatra, Emerson, Whitman, Henry Ford, the politics of Weimar Republic, Eisenhower, Beethoven, Stalin, Lenin, Finnegans Wake, litigation, Houdini, Thomas Mann, T.S Eliot s sex life , the Pentateuch, Yeats s visionary cycle of history, Gibbon, Chevrolet engines, Dante s bird imagery, Marx, Lenin, Mary Pickford, and a possible spot in the never to be administration of Adlai Stevenson in order to bring out an American cultural renaissance If lists of names and contexts and events juxtaposed in a steam of association works for you if you d buy this guy a beer or twelve then this is the kind of book you ll dig If not, well, you re pretty much like about half the people in this story, who seem to take a naieve if honest pleasure in upbraiding the narrator for his sentimental and seemingly stupid attachment to this volcanic freakshow By the time the book starts, Humboldt is obviously a bit of a burnout, a has been mixed with a never was who has sufficiently fallen from grace to make the narrator himself have to duck behind a car when he spies his former intimate gnawing on a vendor s pretzel with extra mustard at three p.m while standing on the sidewalk, seemingly the only food he ll have for the day But Charlie Citrine, writer of some reknown and fairly large income, just won t let the dream die, dammnit Not even the fact of his own draining and costly divorce settlement or his own existential mid life confusion or his spacey, wily, unsatisfying mistress or Humboldt s own massively jumbled legacy and final papers will let him put the matter to rest All I ll say is that the title obviously has than a few symbolic levels but is, in fact, entirely literal in a very plot based way No big surprise there, and frankly I was getting disappointed because I thought I had called it from about 200 pages away and when a dunderhead like me catches whiffs of plot points it s probably time to knock the thing down a few pegs, aesthetically But that disappointment, luckily, lifted There is a gift, certainly, but it s not quite what you think even when it s pretty much what you d assume Bellow frames it beautifully, which is to say in a true to life way, in that what he is given is ironically separated from what it means and how it plays out in the Rube Goldberg wackiness of reality and chance It s a weird but fitting denouement to a story that keeps you going in newer and better directions all through its surprising and unexpected bulk and literary heft If you re thinking of reading it, bump it up a couple notches and you ll be glad you did


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