|Simina Calin||Bellow, Saul: Herzog|
|Assignment 1: Bibliographic Description|
|1. First Edition Publication Information||Saul Bellow. Herzog. New York: Viking Press, 1964.
© 1961, 1963, 1964 by Saul Bellow
Parallel First Editions:
published in Canada by The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited
published in Great Britain by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
|2. First Edition in Cloth, Paper, or Both?||Published in trade cloth binding with dustjacket.|
|3. Image of Cover Art||A1319990925220643.jpg|
|4. Pagination||176 leaves, pp.  1-341 |
|5. Edited and/or Introduced?||Edition not edited nor introduced.|
|6. Illustrated?||Edition not illustrated.|
|8. General Appearance||Page Size: 21cm X 14cm or 8 3/8 " X 5 Ω"
Text Size: 16 Ωcm X 10cm or 6 Ω" X 4"
Typeface: 84R; Times and Carolus types
The appearance of the page is clean and neat. The margins are fairly large and the type size is easy to read. The printing is of high quality with no breaking or cracking of the text and even spacing of the lines.
|9. Image of Sample Chapter Page||A1919990925221131.jpg|
|10. Description of Paper||Printed on off-white or possibly white wove paper. Copy is very well preserved. Pages are free of staining, foxing or tears. Pages show some yellowing.|
|11. Description of Binding||Bound in dark blue calico texture cloth. Blind blocking on front cover. Silver gilt stamping on spine. Back cover blank. Endpapers same color as leaves. Leaves bound in 11 sections. The second leaf which contains a list of Saul Bellow's works was inserted after the sections were bound. It is glued to the first leaf.
Front Cover: /HERZOG/
Spine: /Bellow HERZOG Viking/
Designed by Mel Williamson.
Thick paper. Design is black on blue background with white lettering.
Transcription Front: /HERZOG/ Saul/ Bellow/
Transcription Spine: /HERZOG Saul Bellow/ Viking/
Transcription Back: /Jeff Lowenthal/ [black and white photograph of author 11cm X 14cm or 4 1/2" X 5 1/2"]/ Saul Bellow/
Front Flap contains a blurb about the book. Back flap contains a list of Saul Bellow's works.
|12. Title Page Transcription||Title Page Recto:
/ Saul Bellow / Herzog / New York The Viking Press /
Title Page Verso:
/ Copyright © 1961, 1963, 1964by Saul Bellow. All rights reserved. / First published in 1964 by the Viking PressInc. / 625 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10022 / Published simultaneously in Canada by The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited / Library of Congress catalog card number: 64-19794 / Set in Times and Carolus types / and printed in the United States of America / by H. Wolff Book Manufacturing Co. Inc. / MBG / Two sections of this book appeared, in slightly different form, / in Esquire, another section in The Saturday Evening Post, and / other sections in Commentary and Location./
|13. Image of Title Page||A11319990925221131.jpg|
|14. Manuscript Holdings||The Bellow Papers, the most extensive collection of Saul Bellow's manuscripts is kept at the Regenstein Library of the Univeristy of Chicago. The material relating to Herzog includes 27 notebooks, holograph pages, typewritten pages, and galley proofs|
|15. Other||Copy signed by the author on recto of front endpaper.
Dedication on unnumbered page 5 reads:
/ To Pat Covici, a great editor and, / better yet, a generous friend, / this book is affectionately dedicated/
|Assignment 2: Publication History|
|1. Other Editions:||Viking did not release another edition of the book.
Penguin released the book as a paperback in 1964 and in subsequent years.
Both Viking and Penguin are owned by Penguin Putnam Inc.
In 1976 Viking published an edition which included an introduction and literary criticism, but the text itself was printed from the same plates as the first edition.
|4. First Edition printings or impressions?||The book was published by Viking in 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1976.
The book was published as a paperback by Penguin in 1964, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996.
Penguin's British sister company, also named Penguin and based in Harmondsworth, England Published the book in 1964, 1965 and 1969.
According to Publisher's Weekly in July 1965, Viking was completing its 18th printing of the book.
|5. Editions from other publishers?||Fawcett Crest Book, New York, 1964, 1965 and 1970. 416 p. 18 cm.
Avon, New York, 1976. 416 p. 18 cm.
|6. Last date in print?||As of 1999 this book is still in print. It was last issued by Penguin in October 1996.
|7. Total copies sold?||According to Hackett's 80 Years of Bestsellers in 1965 it sold over a million copies in paperback and 145,000 in hardcover.
|8. Sales by year?||According to Publisher's Weekly in 1964 and 1965 it was selling an average of 2,000 copies per week before Saul Bellow won the National Book Award and 4,000 copies per week after. By May 1965 it was selling an average of 300 copies per week, however, in June it jumped to 1,000 copies.
|9. Advertising copy:||Two ads found in the New York Times Book Review.
Ad from September 27, 1964 reads:
/ "SAUL / BELLOW / has written his / most brilliant book in / HERZOG / It is profound/ as well as 'personal'; / the intelligence in it / is dazzling. / Bellow has lifted / agonizing material to / the heights of the most / liberating perception." / - ALFRED KAZIN 5.75 / THE VIKING PRESS
in a white box superimposed on a picture of Saul Bellow. In the bottom left corner there is some additonal information which reads:
/ THE LAST ANALYSIS, / Mr. Bellow's first work for the theater, / opens at the Belasco September 29th.
Ad from October 11, 1964 shows a picture of the first edition. Viking's logo is in the bottom right corner. In very small print there are four quotes praising the book.
|11. Other promotion?||Reviews in widely read publications such as The New Yorker (v. 40 October 1964, pp. 218-222) and Time (v. 84 September 25, 1964, p. 105) probably helped boost sales.
Saul Bellow and Herzog received further publicity when he won the National Book Awards and was considered for the Pulitzer prize.
Herzog was mentioned in print ads for his subsequent books.
|12. Performances in other media?||There was no adaptation for other media found.
Excerpts read by the author were released by Caedmon, New York in 1978 on cassete as well as disc.
In 1994 it was released by Blackstone Audiobooks.
|13. Translations?||Ho-so-ko. (Chao-lin Sung, Sen-yao Liu) Kuei Kuaan t'u shu ku fen yu hsien kung ssu, Tai-pei. 1994. 539 p. 21 cm. Chinese.
Herzog. (no translator given) Matica Hrvatska, Zagreb. 1966. 430 p. 20 cm. Croatian.
Herzog. (Heda Kovalyova) Odeon, Prague. 1993. 399 p. 21 cm. Czech.
Herzog. (no translator given) NYT Nordisk Forlag, Copenhagen. 1965. 314 p. 23 cm. Danish.
Herzog; roman. (no translator given) Uitgeverij De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam. 1969. 391 p. 20 cm. Dutch.
Herzog. (no translator given) Kirjastus "Eesti Raamat", Tallinn. 1972. 382 p. 20 cm. Estonian.
Herzog. (Jean Rosenthal) Gallimard, Paris. 1966, 1975, 1986. 2 vol. 539 p. 18 cm. French.
Herzog: roman. (no translator given) Deutsche Buch-Gemeinschaft, Berlin. 1967. 415 p. 22 cm. German.
Hertsog. ('Oded Peled) Zemorah-Bitan, Tel Aviv. 1992. 323 p. 21 cm. Hebrew.
Herzog, romanzo. (no translator given) Feltrinelli, Milano. 1965, 1977. 437 p. 18 cm. Italian.
Hazogu. (Yuzaburo Shibuya, Rikutaro Fukuda) Eichosha, Tokyo. 1970. 211 p. 18 cm. Japanese.
Herzog. (no translator given) H. Aschehoug, Oslo. 387 p. 21 cm. Norwegian.
Herzog. (no translator given) Alkazar, Warsaw. 1993. 366 p. 22 cm. Polish.
Herzog: um homem do nosso tempo. (no translator given) Estudios Cor, Lisbon. 1966. 398 p. 22 cm. Portuguese.
Herzog. (no translator given) Edicoes Simbolo, Sao Paulo. 1976. 345 p. 21 cm. Portuguese [Brazil]
Herzog. (no translator given) Kriterion Konyvkiado, Bukarest. 1970. 462 p. 20 cm. Hungarian
Gertsog: roman. (no translator given) Panorama, Moskow. 1991, 1992. 348 p. 21 cm. Russian.
Herzog. (no translator given) Tatran, Bratislava. 1968. 337 p. 20 cm. Slovak.
Herzog. (no translator given) Cankarjeva Zalozba, Ljubljani. 1966. 431 p. 20 cm. Slovene.
Herzog. (no translator given) Ediciones Orbis, Barcelona. 1965, 1983. 339 p. 20 cm. Spanish.
Herzog; roman. (Torsten Blomkvist) Bonniers, Stockholm. 1965. 332 p. Swedish.
Herzog: a novel. (N/A) Secker & Warburg, London. 1964, 1984. 341 p. 23 cm
Herzog. (transcribed by Rena White) Fawcett, Greenwhich. 1964. 9 vol. 30 cm. American Braille.
|14. Serialization?||Prior to publication the book was serialized in Location, Commentary, Esquire and the Saturday Evening Post.
"Napoleon Street", Commentary. July 1964, v. 38 no. 1 pp. 30-38.
"Letter to Dr. Edvig", Esquire. July 1963, v. LX no. 1 pp. 61-62, 103-105.
"Herzog Visits Chicago", The Saturday Evening Post. August 8, 1964, 237th year no. 28 pp. 44-69.
Location, Spring 1963
|15. Sequels or Prequels?||No sequels or prequels found.|
|Assignment 3: Brief Biography|
|"I've always been among foreigners and never considered myself a native of anything," 1 Saul Bellow once said. He was born and brought up in a multicultural society and in a family which spoke many languages. Saul Bellow was born on June 10, 1915 in Lachine, a suburb of Montreal. His parents, Abraham and Liza Bellow had emigrated to Canada from St. Petersburg two years earlier. Saul was the youngest of four children. When Saul was nine years old, the Bellow family moved to Chicago, a city which was to remain Saul's home until after he graduted from college and which plays a prominent role in his literary works.
In 1933 Saul Bellow graduated from Tuley High School and began attending the University of Chicago. After two years, Bellow decided that he wanted to be a writer and that the study of literature as it was taught at the University of Chicago would not help him, so he transferred to Northwestern University. 2 In 1937 he graduated from Northwestern University with a BS in anthropology. He then started working on a masters degree in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, but abandoned his studies in order to concentrate on writing.
Saul Bellow has been married five times and has three sons. In 1937 he married Anita Goshkin with whom he had his first son, Gregory. In 1956 he married Alexandra Tschacbasov, and fathered his second son, Adam. In 1961 he married Susan Glassman, the mother of his third child, Daniel. In 1974, he married Alexandra Ionescu Tulcea and in 1989 he married Janis Freedman. All his marriages except the latest have ended in divorce.
Bellow's first published work was a short story entitled "Two Morning Monologues", which appeared in Partisan Review in 1941. His first novel was Dangling Man, published by Vanguard Press in 1944. Saul Bellow has published eleven novels, two collections of short stories and numerous other works. He received the National Book Award in 1954, 1965 (for Herzog), and 1971 as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990. In 1976 he received a Pulitzer Prize for Humboldt's Gift. He also became the 1976 Nobel Laureate for Literature in a year when Americans swept the Nobel Prizes.3
Bellow has worked as an instructor, an editor and a professor. He has been either a member of the faculty or a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, New York University, Princeton University, Bard College and many other institutions of higher learning. Since 1993 Bellow has been an English Professor at Boston University in the city of Boston where he also lives. Throughout his literary career he has been represented by three important agents. The first was Henry Volkening, one of the partners in Russell & Volkening Literary Representatives. Before writing Humboldt's Gift, Saul signed, as his agent, Harriett Wasserman who was then working for Russell & Volkening. She remained Bellow's agent until 1996 when he hired Andrew Wylie.
Herzog is said to be Saul Bellow's "most autobiographical novel" 4. Like Bellow, Herzog was born in Montreal of immigrant parents and grew up in Chicago. As an adult he became a professor and spendt most of his life in academic circles. Some critics have said that Bellow is using Herzog as a spokesman for his own ideas about integrating the intellectual world and the so-called real world. Herzog marks Saul Bellow's debut as an author of popular, bestselling fiction. Although his earlier works received critical praise, it was this 1964 novel which established him as a literary institution, as a celebrity and a household name.
1 Marin, Daniel B. Dictionary of Literary Biography. p. 45
2 Miller, Ruth. Saul Bellow A Biography of the Imagination. St, Martin's Press, New York. 1991. p. 9
3 Wasserman, Harriett. Handsome Is: Adventures with Saul Bellow. International Publishing Corporation, New York. 1997. p. 59
4 Marin, Daniel B. Dictionary of Literary Biography. p. 45
|Saul Bellow's Herzog was published to glowing reviews both from the mass media and the academic community. Although Saul Bellow's previous work had been well received, Herzog was the first of his novels to reach the best-seller lists. Reviewers found this novel intelligent, entertaining, technically advanced, and of overall exceptional literary quality.
Herzog is a novel about a professor who is struggling to make sense of his life. He is coping with a stagnant career, two failed marriages, a best friend who has stolen his second wife and two children whom he rarely sees. Throughout the book he writes letters to everybody from his ex-wives, to politicians, scientific experts, his dead mother and finally the famous dead, letters which, of course, remain unsent. The end of the novel finds Herzog in his dilapidated farmhouse in Massachusetts, with "nothing left to say" and, presumably, a new and better understanding of his life.
In an article written for Esquire, Malcom Muggeridge says that: "The book as a whole is written with an altogether exceptional, an almost profligate richness of style, and, of course, it is genuinely funny throughout."1
Among more intellectual publications opinions were similar. In his book Time to Murder and Create, John W. Aldridge, wrote: "The novel… is as wholesome and nutritious as a dish of corn flakes, a clearly 'major' establishment work in the sense that it dramatizes a theme of considerable size with complete honesty…"2 and in his The Myth and the Powerhouse, Philip Rahv tells us that "Saul Bellow emerges not only as the most intelligent novelist of his generation but also as the most consistently interesting in point of growth and development."3
Other reviews praise Saul Bellow for his mastery of timing the vividness of his prose and the contemporary appeal of his novel.
No negative contemporary reviews were found. Some reviewers, particularly those writing for academic publication or in books made note of minor problems with the book, however even these reviewers gave it wonderful reviews overall.
A review that appeared in The Hudson Review in 1964 pointed out that: "…A number of Herzog's imaginary letters seem only quirks of Bellow's, and at a number of points the letters are used much too simply as the means of introducing a flashback. Finally, as in most books with designs on the reader, the message tends to be repeated a few times too often." The reviewer, however, goes on to conclude that "… the more I think about what is wrong the more I am convinced of the novel's essential rightness and claim to the highest praise."4
1 Muggeridge, Malcom. Rev. of Herzog by Saul Bellow. Esquire Jan. 1965: 24+
2 Aldridge, John W. Time to Murder and Create: the Contemporary Novel in Crisis. New York: D. McKay Co., 1966.
3 Rahv, Philip. The Myth and the Power House. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1965.
4 Rev. of Herzog by Saul Bellow. The Hudson Review 17 (1964): 608-618.
American Scholar v. 34 Spring 1965 p. 292
Partisan Review v. 32 Spring 1965 p. 264
Saturday Review v. 48 Aug. 7, 1965 p. 19
Times Literary Supplement Feb. 4, 1965 p. 81
Howe, Irving. "Herzog". The Critic as Artist: Essays on Books 1920-1970. Ed. Harrison, Gilbert A. New York: Liveright, 1972.
|Because of Saul Bellow's standing as a contemporary writer of literary fiction Herzog is still being discussed and reviewed in publications and books of academic quality. The novel reappeared in articles written for popular publications when Saul Bellow published subsequent novels, particularly the Pulitzer prize winning Humboldt's Gift. His successful bid for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1976 reignited interest in all his works, particularly his major novels.
The September 1, 1975 issue of Newsweek features a five page article about Saul Bellow and his life. It appeared shortly after the publication of Humboldt's Gift so the authors devoted most of the article discussing this book, but Herzog is mentioned. Herzog is described as a book that goes "…beyond literature"1.
Later reviews of Herzog often compared this novel to Saul Bellow's other important works. For instance, in his book of essays The Critical Point, Irving Howe writes: "Herzog is almost free of the gratuitous verbalism which marred Augie March [one of Bellow's earlier novels], yet retains its vividness and richness of texture"2. It appears to have been a commonly held belief among academic critics that Herzog marked some sort of new development in Saul Bellow's art. David D. Galloway writes: "… Bellow unites the two traditions in which he had formerly worked - the meditative, highly ratiocinative but essentially impotent victim, and the comic, instinctual rebel. … the effort itself makes Herzog Bellow's most ambitious novel to date"3.
1 Clemons, Walter, and Jack Kroll. "America's Master Novelist." Newsweek 1 Sep. 1975: 32+
2 Howe, Irving. The Critical Point. New York: Horizon Press, 1973.
3 Galloway, David D. The Absurd Hero in American Fiction. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970.
Wisse, Ruth R. The Schlemiel as Modern Hero. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.
Pearce, Richard. "The Ambiguous Assault of Henderson and Herzog". Saul Bellow. Ed. Rovit, Earl. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Prentice-Hall, 1975.
Solotaroff, Theodore. The Red Hot Vacuum and Other Pieces on the Writing of the Sixties. New York: Atheneum, 1970.
|Many people seem to believe that the typical best-seller is a book that offers the reader a straightforward, not too challenging diversion. A writer who is able to write an engaging story while not insulting the intelligence of his or her readers, however, is bound to be successful. With Herzog, Saul Bellow achieves just this kind of success. Bellow's intellectual but not obscure novel captures both the general reading public and the academic community. Due to Bellow's respect for the reader, Herzog was assured a place on the best-seller lists as well as on the highly selective list of literary classics.
In September 1964, Herzog was published to an awaiting public and overwhelmingly positive reviews, "… with some reviewers going so far as to claim the novel as an 'instant classic'" (Wilson, 11). No publisher could have designed a marketing campaign more effective than the spontaneous hype that was created by reviewers around the time of publication. Herzog was even reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, arguably the most significant non-trade publication about recently published and up-coming books. The reviewer, Julian Moynahan, cocludes his article by calling Bellow's novel "new and classic". He goes on to say, "… its publication now, after the past terrible year, suggests that things are looking up for America and its civilization" (41). Such effusive praise was typical of Herzog's contemporary reviewers. Herzog was described as Bellow's masterpiece to date and this kind of "he's the best we have" criticism became characteristic of this novel as well as much of Bellow's subsequent work (Wilson 14-15).
The most significant factor contributing to the popularity of Herzog was its very diverse audience. In an interview which appeared in The Paris Review, Bellow says that his novel "appealed to Jewish readers, to those who have been divorced, to those who talk to themselves, to college graduates, readers of paperbacks, autodidacts, to those who yet hope to live awhile, etc." (Cronin & Siegel, 66). The complexity of this novel makes it appealing to a wide variety of readers from the educated, sophisticated reader, to the academician, to the general public reading for fun rather than intellectual pursuit. Saul Bellow achieves his widespread popularity by treating an intellectual topic in an entertaining, accessible way and by not shying away from the inherent difficulty of the subject matter. Moses Herzog writes unsent letters to, among others, Nietzsche and Spinoza, yet Herzog is approachable enough to have spent forty-one weeks on the New York Times best-seller list in 1964 and 1965. "Herzog … uses the letters as a part of the total form to address the intelligence of the reader direct, and it does this without pedantic asides and without inflicting on us the longueurs of Shandean footnotes" (Moynahan, 41). Bellow frames Herzog's letters with the assumption that the reader knows something about the addressee, but does not provide so much detail that the references become esoteric, alienating his non-academic audience. Herzog's letter to Spinoza reads: "Thoughts not causally connected were said by you to cause pain. I find that is indeed the case. Random association, when the intellect is passive, is a form of bondage. Or rather, every form of bondage is possible then. It may interest you to know that in the twentieth century random association is believed to yield up the deepest secrets of the psyche" (Bellow, 181). In this letter, Bellow presents in one clear sentence which part of Spinoza's philosophy Herzog is duscussing. The reader need not be acquainted with any of Spinoza's writings to understand what Herzog is talking about. Furthermore, by invoking Freud's theory of psychoanalysis, that in the later half of the twentieth century has become a part of popular culture, Bellow gives his readers a comprehensible frame of reference.
The intellectual community found affirmation in Herzog and in Moses Herzog. Herzog is an academician, earning his living through the labor of his mind. Unlike many writers in the 1960s, Bellow displays his own higher education in his novel and allows those readers who are as learned as he is to make use of their own education. "After Herzog, no writer need pretend in his fiction that his education stopped in the eighth grade" (Moynahan, 41). Bellow himself considers the trend toward dumbing down fiction ineffective, untruthful and even insulting to readers. John Enck's interview, which appeared in Contemporary Literature, quotes Bellow as saying, "It is a great defect of American novelists that they shun thinking. Sometimes they appear to take anti-intellectual attitudes in order to identify themselves with the mass of Americans and behave like untutored populists. Which they are not. Most of them are highly sophisticated" (Cronin & Siegel, 44). While the novel can be fascinating for any reader regardless of his or her level of education, it is greatly enhanced by a reader's acquaintance with Moses Herzog's intellectual ideas. The characterization of Herzog as a modern classic by reviewers and Saul Bellow's own intelligence and education serve to make Herzog appreciated in highly educated circles.
It is unusual for a book that is considered literature upon its publication to be immediately well received by the general public, Herzog, however, was remarkably successful in this arena, achieving bestseller status shortly after its publication. "… in his novels Saul Bellow has performed the remarkable feat of making an extraordinarily complicated mind accessible to a wide range of readers without compromising his thoughts through oversimplification" (Wilson, 3). Many writers of modern intellectual literature assume that they are writing for a very small and select audience. Many typical readers are alienated by this assumption which is generally apparent in the way an author treats his subject. Herzog, however, is an intellectual book that the average reader can be comfortable with even though he or she might not understand all of Bellow's references. Bellow does not underestimate the American public's capacity to understand difficult issues if they are presented in the correct manner. Quoting E.M. Forster he says "the reader will take everything that you bounce him into, provided that you bounce him hard enough… If you don't forget the presence of the reader, you can allow yourself all kinds of liberties" (Cronin & Siegel, 38). Bellow's success among the lay readers is not an accident. He considers them part of his audience just as he considers highly educated people part of his audience.
Bellow treats Moses Herzog somewhat ironically, preventing the average reader from feeling inadequate in front of Herzog's, and perhaps Bellow's, intellect. Jonathan Wilson describes Herzog's mind as one that is "staggering in the range of its thoughts and associations", but goes on to say that Bellow's "intentions are often to debunk the man that would live by ideas or books alone" (5). Herzog is a failure, both in the personal sphere and the professional sphere. He seems unable to maintain functional relationships with his ex-wives or his children. Professionally he appears burned out and within the time span of the book he neither teaches nor writes. Readers may be awed by Herzog's education, but the comic state of his life re-humanizes him. In the first paragraph of the book Bellow says of Herzog, "Some people thought he was cracked and for a time he himself had doubted that he was all there." Later in the same paragraph Herzog's letter writing is described. "Hidden in the country, he wrote endlessly, fanatically, to the newspapers, to people in public life, to friends and relatives and at last to the dead, his own obscure dead, and finally the famous dead" (1). Bellow's choice to introduce the novel and its main character in such a way clearly defines the comically pathetic situation in which Herzog is. Bellow claims that his novel is not anti-intellectual, but that it simply points out the absurdity of trying to create a comprehensive synthesis of modern existence (Cronin & Siegel, 72). Those who guide their lives by academic principles, particularly rationalistic principles, seem doomed to fail. This is a nod to the opinion that academics are somehow less equipped to deal with life's real problems, especially if they hope to rely solely or mainly on their historical and philosophical knowledge, which seems quite prevalent in American society in the later part of the twentieth century.
Another reason for the popularity of Herzog, a reason which is fairly typical of best-sellers, is its great character development. Herzog himself is an interesting person, made even more so by the way he is presented. Passages written in the first person allow the reader to see inside his head and understand his motivations. Passages written in the third person allow the reader to see him act in his environment and allow the omniscient narrator to comment on his character. Gersbach is one of the great comic characters of twentieth century American literature. With his wooden leg, his use of his Jewishness as an accessory and his proneness to self-pitying crying fits, he is both repulsive and endearing. Madeleine is, by his own admission, one of Saul Bellow's most "real" female characters (Cronin & Siegel, 34). She is an intellectual, a mother, a wife and a lover, and all the facets of her personality have plausible motivation. In an interview for Chicago Tribune Books Today, Saul Bellow says that women have taken an unusual interest in Madeleine and have been writing him letters asking about the specifics of her character. According to Bellow "ladies reading books want to find models for new behavior" and Madeleine could be such a model (Cronin & Siegel, 38-39).
Ultimately, Herzog deals with interpersonal relationships and contemporary issues, even if it does so on a more educated level than most best-selling novels. Herzog's main crises are domestic. His main concerns are the break-up of his second marriage and the fate of his children. Practically all readers can relate to these concerns. In the 1960s divorces and remarriages or non-traditional family groupings became more common. These changes in the typical family structure were of great concern to readers of the time. Moreover, interpersonal relationships are always of concern to people, so the themes of Herzog are timeless. Yet Bellow uses these domestic crises, which are familiar territory to most readers, to examine more complex and interesteing issues. "… it is not only the social and psychological ramification of divorce with which Bellow is concerned. Bellow is interested in the peculiar components of Western suffering" (Wilson, 6). Bellow is able to explore such a grand theme in a work of fiction because he nestles it into a situation which is easy to understand. His example of "Western suffreing" is one that all people can relate to, hence one that is extremely effective.
Despite the fact that he is basically a failure, Moses Herzog shows a certain optimism, especially by the end of the book. At the end, he resolves to stop writing the letters, which are a prominent sign of his maladjustment throughout the novel. Although it is not very flashy, this is the kind of happy end that characterizes many best-sellers. Throughout the book Moses Herzog remains a likable character, one that reaffirms the human spirit. "…despite his 'every-middle-class-man' appearance, what really makes Moses Herzog so engaging a figure is that in contrast to the literary fashion of the previous decade his experience does not lead him down paths of nihilism. When Moses Herzog suffers, unlike the heroes of Camus, Sartre or Beckett, he 'suffers in style'" (Wilson, 13-14). This book is a reaffirmation of the human spirit. The reader has watched Herzog suffer through a terrible crisis in his life, but Herzog, as well as the reader, has regained control of his existence by the end of the book. Bellow's thesis is not that suffering debases man and makes him animalistic, as the theses of many writers of the period including those mentioned by Wilson, but that suffering can be possesed and mastered.
Bellow has created a book that was, at the time of its publication, a phenomenon and has remained one to this day. It was a wildly popular novel among widely varied demographic groups. Academicians could relate to Herzog's extensive education, average readers to his suffreing and domestic concerns, and women reacted to the new female order represented by Madeleine. Bellow approaches his characters and subject matter in an intelligent manner. He credits all his readers with the ability to understand his ideas and refuses to oversimplify them, which many writers do in the hopes that this will help their books achieve best-seller status. Ironically it is exactly this refusal to pander to the perceived wishes of the public that helps Bellow deliver what the public wants.
Bellow, Saul. Herzog. New York: Viking Press, 1964.
Cronin, Gloria L. and Ben Siegel, ds. Conversations with Saul Bellow. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994.
Moynahan, Julian. "The Way Up from Rock Bottom." The New York Times Book Review 20 Sept. 1964: 1
Wilson, Jonathan. Herzog: The Limits of Ideas. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990.
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