Tag Archives: #The Counterlife

HERZOG and Neurosis

Fawcett Crest 1964

I have had several of Saul Bellow‘s books on my shelf for some time now. I finally got around to reading one this week. I decided to go with Herzog which seems to be the one that is most beloved by critics and fans alike. It seemed like a good place to start. I have been a great fan of Philip Roth and so many articles that I read have referenced Saul Bellow as his predecessor. So, I had high expectations for this novel and he certainly delivered. It was nervous and rambling and so funny! Exactly what I imagining. The main character was annoying but lovable, horny but romantic, masculine but needy. He was interesting and fully rounded. For me, I must have a strong reaction to the main character if I am going to enjoy a book and I was moved by Herzog often. He was struggling in a way that is not necessarily what I have gone through at times; but, he reacted in the same way I do when dealing with uncertainty. He just delves into the depths of his mind. I loved the idea of writing non-stop letters. Basically saying everything you have ever wanted to say to people who have had even a small impact on your life.

Since you spend most of the book inside of Herzog’s scattered mind the writing does get pretty dense in many places. A few times I skipped a paragraph just to get to the point. Admittedly, I’m a pretty impatient reader. But there were plenty of surprises to keep me glued to the book. In the end, I was satisfied by a ending that felt simultaneously open-ended and finished. The anger and confusion seem to have subsided for him but what actaully happens with his family is still unknown. Some people feel jilted when the story ends without a full wrap-up but I don’t mind terribly especially with this particular story. In fact, you’ve been inside of his head for the whole book so you have all the information you need to finish out the book in your own imagination. 

If you liked this neurotic writer, you may like…

Philip Roth

I’m going with the easy suggestion on this one. I think The Counterlife is one of the greatest books ever written but it also makes sense to read it along with some Bellow. I think Roth is all that Bellow wished he could be but was too afraid to be in the 1960s. There was only so much you could say without someone censoring you in those days. Today, Roth can be as dirty and raunchy as he wishes. Trust me, he takes full advantage of that. But he’s so fucking brilliant and funny that you won’t feel insulted in the least. This particular novel is so original that it will take a while for it to wear off and allow you to enjoy other novels. Everything will seem like trash for a bit. Don’t worry, it eventually fades.

If you only have read one author, which book is your favorite? If you have read both, which writer do you prefer?  Do you agree that Roth is far dirtier than Bellow?

See you later, see you soon.