In defence of the comic novel

9780143107675Howard Jacobson at The New Statesman:

Returning to the specifics of Herzog, let me remind you of the heroic action on which Moses Herzog is hell-bent and into which I, brandishing my pencil, leapt Laertes-like. Herzog’s rage has been a long time brewing. The failure of his marriage to Madeleine, in particular his angry thraldom to her, is rendered with an immense comic verve of the sort that is sometimes called misogynistic, though it comprises such attention, not to say attentiveness, to her every movement and inflexion – from the way she applies her lipstick to the way she bends her knee at church – that it also deserves to be called rhapsodic love. A person has to be, or has to have been, deeply in love to attend with such lingering detail to what is infuriating in the beloved.

It is, however, well past all that, now that Madeleine (you can choose whether to hear a Proustian allusion in her name) has left him for Valentine Gersbach, an overdemonstrative, one-legged radio announcer and erstwhile friend. It’s a Hydra-headed, bitterly ludicrous betrayal that includes, as Herzog sees it, the usurpation of his young daughter’s affections, too. Herzog won’t be the first man who, in circumstances such as these, sees murder as the only self-respecting response.

more here.