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Ravelstein
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About the Author

Praised for his vision, his ear for detail, his humor, and the masterful artistry of his prose, Saul Bellow was born of Russian Jewish parents in Lachine, Quebec in 1915, and was raised in Chicago. He received his Bachelor's degree from Northwestern University in 1937, with honors in sociology and anthropology, and did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin. During the Second World War he served in the Merchant Marines.

His first two novels, Dangling Man (1944) and The Victim (1947) are penetrating, Kafka-like psychological studies. In 1948 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and spent two years in Paris and traveling in Europe, where he began his picaresque novel The Adventures of Augie March, which went on to win the National Book Award for fiction in 1954. His later books of fiction include Seize the Day (1956);Henderson the Rain King (1959); Mosby's Memoirs and Other Stories (1968); Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970); Humboldt's Gift (1975), which won the Pulitzer Prize; The Dean's December (1982);More Die of Heartbreak (1987); Theft (1988); The Bellarosa Connection (1989); The Actual (1996);Ravelstein (2000); and, most recently, Collected Sto

Reviews

This latest novel by Pulitzer (1975) and Nobel prize (1976) winner Bellow is basically a rumination on the themes of friendship, love, death, and aging. It offers very little in the way of plot but a great deal as a sensitive exploration into the human condition. Ravelstein is a brilliant albeit eccentric professor of political philosophy, many of whose acolytes have become the movers and shakers of today's world. He has always lived life to the fullest, even when he couldn't afford to--a point that becomes moot when he publishes, at best friend Chick's suggestion, a best-selling book outlining his ideas. When he is diagnosed with AIDS (he is, as Chick says, homosexual but not "gay"), Ravelstein convinces Chick, a well-known writer in his own right, to become his Boswell. Consisting of Chick's reflections on their relationship--memories of discussions on a wide range of topics from the nature of truth to nihilism, from the responsibilities inherent in being a Jew to the nature of love, from the world of the intellect to the world of vaudeville--the book is at once witty, erudite, and compassionate. While its pace and intellectual depth may put off those more attuned to today's "popular" genre, this is the work of a master and unquestionably belongs in all academic and public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/00.]--David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, FL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Age does not wither Saul Bellow. The 84-year-old writer's new novel is echt Bellow--the grab-bag paragraphs stuffed with truculent observations; the comedic mix of admiration and rivalry that subtends the friendships of intellectual men; the impossible and possible wives. Abe Ravelstein, a professor at a well-known Midwestern college, is obviously modeled on the late Allan Bloom. To clinch the identification, Bellow's narrator, Chick, a writer 20 years older than Ravelstein, uses phrases to describe Ravelstein that are almost identical to phrases Bellow used about Bloom in his published eulogy. Like Bloom, Ravelstein operates his phone like a "command post," getting information from his former students in high positions in various governments. Like Bloom, Ravelstein writes a bestseller using his special brand of political philosophy to comment on American failings. And like Bloom, Ravelstein throws money around as if "from the rear end of an express train." In fact, Chick is so obsessed with the price of Ravelstein's possessions that at times the work reads like a garage sale of his student's effects. Ravelstein also spends lavishly on his boyfriend, Nikki, a princely young Singaporean. Chick's wife, at the beginning of the memoir, is Vela, an East European physicist. Ravelstein dislikes her, and suspects that her Balkan friends are anti-Semites. Eventually, Vela kicks Chick out of his house and divorces him (fans will not be surprised that Bellow, as seems to be his habit, makes this a thinly veiled attack on his ex-wife). Chick ends up marrying one of Ravelstein's students, Rosamund. When Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS, Chick mulls over his obligation to write a memoir of his friend, but he is blocked until he himself suffers a threatening illness. Chick's alternate na‹vet‚ and subconscious rivalry with Ravelstein is the subtext here. Amply rewarding, this late work from the Nobel laureate flourishes his inimitable linguistic virtuosity, combining intimations of mortality with gossipy tattle in a biting and enlightening narrative. First serial to the New Yorker. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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