a kaddish that’s run out of control


“Humboldt’s Gift,” first published in 1975 and just re-issued (Penguin: 512 pp., $16), is both a crazy mess of a novel and an abiding testament to the vital exuberance of Saul Bellow’s genius. “The book of ballads published by Von Humboldt Fleisher in the Thirties was an immediate hit. Humboldt was just what everyone had been waiting for. Out in the Midwest I had certainly been waiting eagerly, I can tell you that,” the book begins. The narrator is Charlie Citrine, and his friend Humboldt has just died in a fleabag New York hotel. Citrine uses his relationship with the doomed poet as a springboard for meditations on the relationship between the artist and society in America, on women, on marriage, on contemporary life, on pretty much anything, in effect, that interests or obsesses his creator, Saul Bellow.

more from the LA Times here.