2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Superlative US novel about an academic's touch with madness,
This review is from: Herzog (Penguin Classics) (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.