Saturday, March 18, 2006

Henderson the Rain King

I recently finished reading Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King, which was the selection for the Bay Ridge Jewish Center's book club.

I actually did not finish it by the time we met to discuss it, but took several more days to wrap it up.

Overall, I would rate it very high, although far from my Top 20 list. It had been a while since I read Bellow's Seize the Day.

Like many great books, this one starts a little choppy, but gathers momentum until the very end. The character of Henderson is a bit of a blowhard, and not necessarily someone who is likeable, yet he is complex and fascinating.

Bellow's language is brilliant and he really is effective in transporting the reader into an Africa of the past, on a soul-searching mission that hardly turns out the way he anticipated.

Think of Henderson as a Hemingway-esque protagonist that is all ego and through his interaction with an African king and wild lions, discovers a greater purpose.

Philip Roth, in The New Yorker, said this: "Brilliantly funny, all new, a second enormous emancipation, a book that wants to be serious and unserious at the same time (and is), a book that invites an academic reading while ridiculing such a reading and sending it up, a stunt of a book, but a sincere stunt--a screwball book, but not without great screwball authority."

Check out wikipedia's entry on this book here.

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