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Customer Review

on 10 March 2014
Saul Bellow's story begins with an interesting problem: Tommy Wilhelm, a down-and-out father of two boys, separated from his wife and recent job, is enticed by Dr. Tamkin, who might or might not be a conman, to speculate his meagre reserves in the commodity market. In this case we are talking about lard, which is not a major item in the market -- and might be Bellow's inside joke; if so, it is one of the few elements of humour that could lighten an otherwise progressively downtrodden tale.

The reader's attention is held by this slender premise, and it is the outcome of the speculation that holds our attention throughout. Even if the story is a short novel, the main theme, and the workings of the commodity market are never properly explained, while the digressions from the story, philosophical, psychological, marital, filial (the father's opinion takes a central role) and the increasingly dense reflections, the loaded and larded verbosity of Dr. Tamkin, become trying reading long before the end of the story. The unexpected final scene is insufficient to compensate for what is a rather tedious read.

The Swedish Nobel Committee made a telling comment when awarding Bellow the Nobel Prize: this writing exhibits "the mixture of rich picaresque novel and subtle analysis of our culture...." a "penetrating insight into the outer and inner complications that drive us to act".
The workings of the human psyche are central also to Bellow's other works: see 'Augie March' and 'Henderson the Rain King'.
They are not everyone's cup of tea -- the paucity of Amazon Customer Reviews are an indication of readers' limited interest.
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Product Details

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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