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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Herzog and Abandoned Novels

Something about the haziness induced by seasonal allergies made it easier to see certain things more clearly. Being sick meant that I was in no mood to put up with anyone's bullshit, let alone that of an arrogant male author like Saul Bellow, who'd probably erect a statue to his own libido if he wasn't a talented writer.

That's the frustrating thing about Bellow, he's obviously talented. His prose is written with an enthusiasm that carries it past the thin premises of his books. But instead of writing a story, Bellow cares too much about dropping the names of obscure foreign authors and philosophers and stating outright his positions on high-minded topics of debate. In Herzog, these authorial discourses are considered excusable because the protagonist is himself a learned professor, but there incomprehensibility renders the whole book (or at least the 200 pages I managed to get through) a joyless slog.

Perhaps more offensive to the reader than the alienating superiority the author feels toward his intellect is his apparently amoral brand of mysogyny. Herzog was apparently written after the author's contentuous divorce, and the hatred Bellow feels toward his ex-wife is wholly represented in the novel, as Herzog's ex-wife is portrayed as so comically manipulative as to provoke incredulity. I detest novel's written to prove points, political or otherwise, and it seem to me that the lowest sort of this kind is to write a book essentially arguing that your ex-wife is a bitch. This is more common than you might think, and absolutely ruined Philip Roth's "I Married a Communist" for me.

Anyway, Saul Bellow's Herzog is a contemptible, vile piece of personal propaganda which gives voice to some of the most disgusting mysogyny I've ever seen represented in a supposed work of art. I can't think of one person I respect who could find anything to like about it. Life is too short to read the rantings of a bitter man wasting his talent. Stay away.

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