Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Great Literature?

I enjoyed Bellow's The Actual as much as the next guy but I'm don't think it qualifies as classic literature by any stretch of the imagination. Don't get me wrong, I thought it was good, I just don't think it's National Jewish Book Award Winner good. The biggest problem I have with the book is the unorthodox plot structure. I mean, it's 99% rising action that finally pays off in the final three lines. And boy was I glad Harry finally got the stones to make a move after 60 some-odd years, even though Adletsky, the puppet master billionaire, practically had to make it for him. That said, what I enjoyed most was the masterfully crafted characters. All the major players in the book were complex and had many layers like like a cake you see on one of those awful shows about cakes on cable TV. Heck, Bellow even treated the minor characters with care. I got a kick out of his description of Frances Jellicoe, "she's built like a brick shithouse." 'Nuff said Mr. Bellow. And what's up with Harry Trellman? Sure the guy is self-conscious and introverted, but he seems to have superhuman observational powers and an omniscient ability to read the thoughts of others. I think Adletsky decided to help Harry not only because he had the means to do so, but also because he identified with him and recognized his unique talent. Like I said before, I enjoyed The Actual but I wish Bellow didn't leave so many questions unanswered and took the time to tie up some loose ends. Lastly, I noticed some simiarities between Bellow's life and the character he created, Harry Trellman. Enjoy!

Saul Bellow and Harry Trellman Similarities:
  • Bellow's father worked for Capone and Harry's business is shrouded in mystery, seemed like he was involved in money laundering with Jay Wustrin.
  • Bellow and Harry are both Jewish.
  • Bellow was humiliated by his immigrant status and Harry did not enjoy being an orphan.
  • Did the relationship between Jay and Harry mirror the relationship between Bellow and Algren?
  • Both Harry and Bellow traveled the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment