Thursday, August 31, 2006

Saul Bellow,Henderson the Rain King.

Saul Bellow,Henderson the Rain King. Henderson is a striving man, a failure, a bully. A millionaire strong man with broken crowns. He is "A bungled lump of humanity." A mythical Africa is the backdrop for a decaying giant and the explication of his failure.This is a book about suffering and perhaps even more the struggle - Henderson refers again and again to his capacity for striving: "It was a question of spirit, too, for when it comes to struggling I am in a special class. From earliest times I have struggled without rest."

Once again Bellow is obsessed with the decay of the flesh, with its betrayals. It's the comic tone of Vonnegut with the same vision of the absurdity of the human body. At the same time he recalls Hesse and the search to stop desire, to get off the wheel. "Only to repeat fear and desire without a change? ... Any good man will try to break the cycle. There is no issue from that cycle for a man who does not take things into his own hands."

Anyway - I identify with Henderson strongly. I feel so many of his same yearnings - at the same time grandiose and pathetic - wanting to do good while screwing up royally. I also liked what he said about reading:

"I am a nervous and emotional reader. I hold a book up to my face and it takes only one good sentence to turn my brain into a volcano; I begin thinking of everything at once and a regular lava of thoughts pours down my sides."

"When I started to read something about France, I realized I didn't know anything about Rome, which came first, and then Greece, and then Egypt, going backward all the time to the primitive abyss. As a matter of fact, I didn't know enough to read one single book."

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