Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saul Bellow (and Roth, too)

I've just finished Herzog - a book that I meant to read five years ago. Let me begin by stating the obvious: this is a masterful novel. Narrative ingenuity, philosophical insight, cultural mayhem - it's all there, served with consistent (but always animated) prose. I must say, there's something about Bellow's novels which seem to outlast those of Roth. Maybe it's the writing itself which is superior; or maybe it's a more expansive vision of plot. Either way, I find that there exists in Bellow's work a certain intellectual gravity which is not always present in Roth's stories. And it's not that I mind Roth (in fact, I find his treatment of sex and sexuality to be unusually perceptive); it's just that, when it comes to style and narrative punch, I find myself drawn to the Nobel Laureate. The last word is reserved for Herzog (Penguin ed., 328):

"The explosions had become implosions, and where light once was darkness came, bit by bit."


  1. Your perceptive posting on Bellow reminds that I need to revisit and reread Bellow's novels, especially my favorite among all of Bellow's works, Henderson the Rain King, a comic masterpiece.

  2. Agreed, on all counts.

    I know it's heresy to say so, but I've thought Roth's novels to be overrated for many years. Bellow on the other hand I think will only improve with time.