It probably doesn’t mean much in the cosmic scheme of things, but I can now say that I’ve read Saul Bellow. During a visit to one of our local used book stores a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a sturdy hardbound copy of Humboldt’s Gift, a novel he published in 1975,
the year before he won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Humboldt’s Gift is a good, entertaining book that runs 487 pages. It doesn’t strike me as a masterpiece, but in it he does cover a lot of philosophical and psychological ground under the guise of the main character, a famous writer from Chicago by the name of Charles Citrine. What’s Charlie Citrine’s problem? A divorce settlement that’s gotten out of hand; the intrusion into his life and affairs by a small-time gangster who demands a piece of Citrine’s life and literary action; a beautiful young woman and her monster mother who are pushing for a financially advantageous marriage; and, last but not least, a little thing called Death — a matter he has decided needs his full attention and one which, perhaps, only he is capable of solving.

Along the way, often in the midst of trying social situations, Citrine, a fit man I gather is in his fifties, does a lot of reflecting, pondering, and all-out meditating. Meanwhile, as the result of the litigation with his ex-wife (Bellow had several in real life, I understand), he is rapidly running out of money. Down to his last few thousand, he decides the time has finally come to simplify his outer life and pursue his inner life. Just as he’s about to go under, some cash comes his way from a settlement with a movie outfit that stole a treatment he and Humboldt had cooked up many years earlier. The movie is playing to huge audiences — a fact brought to his attention in Spain, where’s he’s posing as the bereaved widow and the father of the little boy of the woman who had wanted to marry him until she realized he was going broke — by the aforementioned gangster. And more dough, it turns out, is on the way as the result of Humboldt’s final bequest — another idea for a movie that Citrine, at first glance, had thought unusable.

Well. Anyway. I finished the book, and now have resolved to finish
The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, which I had set aside for some time because there have been so many things going on “behind the scenes” — i.e, family visits, relatives arriving from the East and from overseas, trips to and from the airport, work of my own, etc. As soon as I got back to the book yesterday, which also happened to be the birthday of the author, Nikos Kazantzakis (born 1883), I was reminded once again what a real masterpiece of literature is — and how far I have yet to go to achieve it.

Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

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