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Herzog Hardcover

3.9 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 341 pages
  • Publisher: The Viking Press
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003IY7NLO
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,483,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
IF I am out of my mind, it's all right with me, thought Moses Herzog. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Moses Herzog is a Jewish academic living in New York in the early Sixties. Following the disastrous break-up of his second marriage, he begins writing letters - first, to practically everybody he has ever met, and then to a varity of public and cultural figures living and dead. It doesn't take the reader long to realise that Herzog is having something of a crisis: his behaviour is erratic and his mind distracted as he remembers in vivid detail key scenes in his life. Perhaps we can make allowances, though - he is trying to make sense of what it means to be alive in the Western world in the second half of the twentieth century, after all. The book is not exactly big on plot, but a certain suspense does build as to whether he's going to get through it with his mind and body intact. The novel is also very well written, and at times dazzlingly so. As a character, Herzog is brilliantly realised - unquestionably an intellectual, he is entirely believable as betrayed husband, doting father, rebellious son, hesitant lover and more besides. The book is a modern classic which captures its time, and still has a lot to say to us about our lives as part of a society too advanced for easy comprehension.
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Format: Paperback
This novel starts with a ferociously strong image, then moves us into the mind of Moses Herzog. Herzog is a failing professor with an unfaithful second wife, a treacherous best friend, unwritten books and theses which remind him of his failings. Also, in a bizarrely wonderful twist, we find that Herzog writes letters avidly, even compulsively. These are largely to dead people, either relatives or historical figures he has never met. Also mathematicians - he writes to Euclid and points out why his theories don't add up.

The novel also contains a profound and bitter sense of betrayal, Herzog's as his marriage fails and his child whisked from him, Bellow's as similar events in his life mirrored the plot.

This is Bellow's most autobiographical work, including his bizarre childhood and the way he sees an exiled, crushed class (and race) adjust to their new lives, while he with his fabulously realised child's eyes sees only the surface, but sees things an adult would consider sinister.

This book is either a masterpiece or so close it makes no difference. Check it out when you're prepared to be tantalised and confused.
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Format: Paperback
Stunning novel about a middle aged academic almost driven insane by various personal and ideological crises, but who eventually manages to find some peace after experiencing events that finally seem to connect him with reality. I absolutely adored the quality of style and character, and although the plot is incredibly thin, you don't care because it is constructed so brilliantly to allow all those fascinating, perfectly described reminiscences. Definitely I was generally having that feeling of sickening jealousy for the sheer ability demonstrated, albieit in quite a showy way. There are many incredible lines, either simply involving profound observations on life, or via the wonderful eye for character details that Bellow has. The use of letters as a kind of stream of consciousness device works fantastically. Herzog's character is one of the most stunningly rich and real I've ever come across in literature, and the peripheral characters also feel very real and vivid. This novel seems incredibly autobiographical, in fact, and many of the details probably were taken from Bellow's life. The only slight criticism I have is that in one or two places it felt a little contrived. Ramona is obviously set up as the "healthy" choice and feels slightly thin for it. And why oh why would Herzog keep his gun in his pocket when visiting his daughter? This to me seemed totally unbelievable, and merely a silly device. But these tiny quibbles aside, this is definitely one of the best American novels I've ever read.
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By therealus TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 24 Aug. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Herzog, more than any other, reveals James Joyce’s influence over the novels of Saul Bellow. It is for much of its length an internal conversation conducted by Moses Herzog with himself, some of which he occasionally commits to paper as part of a series of notes to personages both dead and alive, ranging from existentialist philosophers to his former sexual partners. He remembers his hardscrabble childhood, with his family’s migration from Canada to Chicago, echoing Bellow’s own, and the struggles of his father in making a living, including his foray into bootlegging which earns him a serious beating.

Occasionally other people intrude. He spends a night with his latest girlfriend, Ramona. He rather creepily stalks his ex-wife Madeleine and her partner at her home one night, watching them through the window. He takes his daughter to the zoo carrying an antique pistol, loaded, wrapped in a blanket of czarist roubles, is involved in a minor car crash and finds himself in the police station charged with possession of an unlicensed weapon. In amongst this he travels around New York, Chicago and his country pile in the Berkshires.

For the reader there is little doubt that Herzog is a little unhinged. How else to explain his resentment at the anger displayed by Madeleine when she collects their daughter from the police station? How else to explain the capricious wanderings by train, plane and automobile? How else to explain the compulsive scribblings?

Some of Herzog’s musings reveal a streak of misogyny. It is not possible to say definitively that this reflected Bellow’s own attitudes, but some of the circumstances in the book reflect Bellow’s own at the time.
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