Sunday, May 31, 2015

Book 65- Herzog (101st Book)

Dear Saul Bellow, 

Your novel Herzog is terrible and I disliked reading it greatly. I know you were trying to create a bildungsroman about how to make sense of life in a meaningless world. I know you wanted us to get angry at Herzog for intellectualizing his life only to realize that we too do the same thing as humans. I know that you wanted me to end the novel with a great sense that even though our lives are a comic failure that we can still bring meaning to our life in the face of death. I GET that, but yet, I still dislike your book.

Do you like random letters to famous dead people? Than Herzog is the novel for you! This novel follows the main character Herzog as he tries to make sense of his life with two failed marriages, a failed academic career and a failed novel behind him. Yes, you guessed it, this novel also includes everyone's favourite topic: Adultery. I suppose you might find this novel refreshing since it is one of the few novels that looks at the impact of adultery on cuckolded individual. Honestly, however, I am beginning to doubt that there is any other topic for a novel  an I am beginning to weary of it as a subject matter.

The random letters I referred to are penned by Herzog in his borderline insanity as he struggles with what to do with his life in the wake of his completed failure in almost every area. I found the letters extremely irritating and also extremely self-centered (which was what Bellow was going for when he wrote the novel). Bellow wanted us to dislike Herzog and the intellectualizing  of his problems, but he also then wanted us to make the leap to applying that dislike to areas of ourself. That leap, for me at least, did not happen. Of course I intellectualize. Of course I struggle when I feel like a failure in one or more areas of my life, but by reading this novel I did not feel that I gained any new perspective on life or any new grip on my reality....also I just plain didn't like reading this book.  Bellow said it best himself,

"These personal histories, old tales from old times that may not be worth remembering. I remember. I must. But who else-to whom can this matter?"

For me, this is one novel that tells of a personal demise that just doesn't ring true for me as a story with a general application. Either that or reading the best classics at the beginning of the book has made me grumpy. Or the fact that this must be the 12th or 30th tale of adultery has made me angrier than I have ever been before at fiction.

Today is May 30. I had 12 or so pages left to read on this novel. I struggled through the book for a week at the beginning of the month and left the last 12 pages until today. I had no desire to finish this book, but for the sake of the challenge I did. i am nothing if not stubborn and I haven't devoted the last few years of my life to completing this challenge only to give up at the well over half way point.

Dear blog reader, 

Unless you are completing some sort of life list like I am let me give you some advice. Pass by Herzog if you see it on the shelves at your local book store or for sale at a garage sale on the side of the road. There is a reason why this novel has become one of the lesser known classic novels of our time. I don't think that this particular novel will weather the tests of time.

Onwards and upwards to the next book on the Novel 100 list: Germinal!

1 comment:

Joseph said...

Yeah, I don't think I'd like this either. I totally get finishing though for the sake of finishing. I've read plenty that I dislike, and a few that disgusted me, but so far I've only quit on two, that were just too reprehensible for me. So, I think you need a saccharine sweet happy ending next. I recommend David Copperfield.