Books of 2021: Herzog

Herzog is Saul Bellows’s timeless contribution to that unique body of mid-twentieth century fiction that deconstructs the neuroses of homo postbellum Americanis.

Like many, I assume, I could not like Herzog (the protagonist): his puerile narcissism drove him to disregard or belittle moral strictures and ethical codes purely because they threatened to limit or delegitimize his hedonistic desires. But I empathized with the mental and spiritual dead-end with which he was struggling, and I appreciated his effort to fight his way through by writing cathartic letters.

(Indeed, I found his approach so provocative that I began my own series of letters to individuals, companies, government officials, and foreign dignitaries that I have no intention of sending. They will be found among my papers after my death.)

Despite the countless times I wanted to pick Herzog up by the scruff of his neck, slap him around, and set him straight about his life, the book was brilliant. If it does not wind up with an entirely happy ending, Bellow does make it satisfying and, in so doing, offers a little light to those of us struggling with the demons of andropause and our own limitations.

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