Abe Ravelstein is a brilliant professor at a prominent Midwestern university and a man who glories in training the movers and shakers of the political world. He has lived grandly and ferociously - and much beyond his means. His close friend Chick has suggested that he put forth a book of his convictions about the ideas that sustain humankind, or kill it, and much to Ravelstein’s own surprise, he does and becomes a millionaire.
Ravelstein suggests in turn that Chick write a memoir or a life of him, and during the course of a celebratory trip to Paris the two share thoughts on mortality, philosophy and history, loves and friends, old and new, and vaudeville routines from the remote past. The mood turns more somber once they have returned to the Midwest and Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS and Chick himself nearly dies.
Deeply insightful and always moving, Saul Bellow’s new novel is a journey through love and memory. It is brave, dark, and bleakly funny: an elegy to friendship and to lives well (or badly) lived.
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Grew on me after finishing
This is a roman à clef of an apparently authorized biography of the philosopher Allen Bloom (author of The Closing of the American Mind) where the names have been changed to protect the author or publisher.
While I was reading this book, even at the end, I did not feel this was the best of Bellow - there was really no storyline. Yet, as time went by, the novel, particularly the two friends, Bloom and Bellow, suck with me. The humorous juxtaposition of the brilliant Bellow with the astoundingly brilliant Bloom, along with the American Jewish mystic does make this a Bellow classic.
The narrator was up to these challenging prose.
- not guilty
A beautiful book about friendship, love and death
I enjoy this narrator a great deal and had heard bellow mentioned by the late Christopher Hitchens. I found the other included titles by Bellow to have underwhelming narration, so I started listening to this book. Perhaps it is where I am in my own life at the moment, but the author’s description of his long friendship with Bloom (whose book the closing of the American mind continues to be highly relevant today it seems - sadly not read by this narrator) is wonderful. His description of his two marriages, seemed at first listen to be something of an addendum. But upon subsequent listens the depictions of love for both his departed friend and his wife amplified the transcendence of life and death.