This grand-scale heroic comedy tells the story of the exuberant young Augie, a poor Chicago boy growing up during the Depression. While his neighborhood friends all settle down into their various chosen professions, Augie, as particular as an aristocrat, demands a special destiny. He latches on to a wild succession of occupations, proudly rejecting each one as too limiting. It is not until he tangles with a glamorous perfectionist named Thea, a huntress with a trained eagle, that his independence is seriously threatened. Luckily, his nature, like the eagle’s, breaks down under the strain. He goes on to recruit himself to even more outlandish projects but always ducks out in time to continue improvising his unconventional career.
With a jaunty sense of humor embedded in a serious moral view, Bellow’s story both celebrates and satirizes the irrepressible American spirit.
Saul Bellow evokes all the rich colors and exotic customs of a highly imaginary Africa in this acclaimed comic novel about a middle-aged American millionaire who, seeking a new, more rewarding life, descends upon an African tribe. Henderson's awesome feats of strength and his unbridled passion for life win him the admiration of the tribe-but it is his gift for making rain that turns him from mere hero into messiah. A hilarious, often ribald story, Henderson the Rain King is also a profound look at the forces that drive a man through life.
Fading charmer Tommy Wilhelm has reached his day of reckoning and is scared. In his forties, he still retains a boyish impetuousness that has brought him to the brink of chaos: he is separated from his wife and children; at odds with his vain, successful father; failed in his acting career (a Hollywood agent once placed him as “the type that loses the girl”); and in a financial mess. In the course of one climactic day he reviews his past mistakes and spiritual malaise, until a mysterious, philosophizing con man grants him a glorious, illuminating moment of truth and understanding and offers him one last hope.
Mr. Artur Sammler is, above all, a man who has lasted, from the civilized pleasures of English life in the 1920s and 30s through the war and death camps in Poland. Moving now through the chaotic and dangerous streets of New York’s Upper West Side, Mr. Sammler is attentive to everything, and appalled by nothing. He brings the same dispassionate curiosity to the activities of a black pickpocket on an uptown bus, the details of his niece Angela’s sex life, and his daughter’s lunacy as he does to the extraordinary theories of one Dr. V. Govinda Lal on the use we are to make of the moon now that we have reached it.
Beneath this novel’s comedy, sadness, shocking action, and superb character-drawing there runs a strain of speculation, both daring and serene, on the future of life on this planet—Mr. Sammler’s planet—and any other planets for which we may be destined.
Abe Ravelstein is a brilliant professor at a prominent midwestern university and a man who glories in training the movers and shakers of the political world. He has lived grandly and ferociously—and much beyond his means. His close friend Chick has suggested that he put forth a book of his convictions about the ideas which sustain humankind, or kill it, and much to Ravelstein’s own surprise, he does and becomes a millionaire. Ravelstein suggests in turn that Chick write a memoir or a life of him, and during the course of a celebratory trip to Paris the two share thoughts on mortality, philosophy and history, loves and friends, old and new, and vaudeville routines from the remote past. The mood turns more somber once they have returned to the Midwest and Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS and Chick himself nearly dies.
Deeply insightful and always moving, Saul Bellow’s novel is a journey through love and memory. It is brave, dark, and bleakly funny: an elegy to friendship and to lives well (or badly) lived.