Books in Brief


The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005, by Zachary Leader (New York: Alfred A. Knopf; 784 pp., $40.00).  This is the second volume of the author’s biography of Saul Bellow, a massive and no doubt definitive work, minutely researched and very well written.  Nevertheless, the patience required of the reader to pursue such a book diligently and to the end is, obviously, in proportion to his interest in the subject, and Saul Bellow was a minor writer, despite the volume of his literary production.  His best novels are probably his earliest and shortest, Dangling Man and Seize the Day.  I should say The Adventures of Augie March is unreadable, had not so many readers actually read it.  Henderson the Rain King is indisputably not only his funniest novel but funny by comparison with any comic novel one could mention.  I doubt anyone who ever read it has forgot the scene where Henderson, in his attempt to clear the African tribe’s water impoundment of its infestation by frogs with dynamite, underestimates the power of his charge and blows the dam itself.  Herzog, his first major success, was something of an intellectual showpiece—or show-off one.  There are no real scenes in Bellow, little extended dialogue,...

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