View Poll Results: Humboldt's Gift: Final Verdict

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  • * Waste of time. Wouldn't recommend.

    0 0%
  • ** Didn't like it much.

    0 0%
  • *** Average

    1 33.33%
  • **** It is a good book

    2 66.67%
  • ***** Liked it very much. Would strongly recommend it.

    0 0%
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Thread: February '15: Humboldt's Gift

  1. #1
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    February '15: Humboldt's Gift

    We are reading Saul Bellow's Humboldt's Gift this month. Please share your thoughts and comments in this thread.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  2. #2
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Finally got my hands on the only library copy in this county. Will start reading tonight hopefully.

    Anyone joining?
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  3. #3
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I am about 100 pages through. It is not like any book I would choose to read, and I cannot remember reading anything like it before. It is very articulate, as you might expect in a book in which the protagonist was made a chevalier de l' ordre du Mérite by the French government for his literature. I am only familiar with this time and place from American movies. I sort of imagine the characters played by actors like Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon, although I am not sure who would play the mobsters. I thought maybe Al Pacino might play one of them, but he was rather young in the 70s. The protagonist, Charlie Citrine, and his erstwhile friend, Von Humboldt Fleisher, reminded me of the sort of half-famous people I used to watch on late night arts TV shows.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  4. #4
    Registered User easy75's Avatar
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    I'm in as well. Got my copy friday and started today. First thirty pages gave me that feeling I get when i've started something that I think I am going to like.

  5. #5
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I think I see Mel Brooks as Humboldt. I am not sure who I would cast as Charlie Citrine.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  6. #6
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    I am wondering about the title... "Humboldt" is a type of squid, apparently.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  7. #7
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I am wondering about the title too. Is it gift as in present or gift as in talent?
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  8. #8
    Registered User easy75's Avatar
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    Well at about 150 pages in I figured I would check in with the discussion. @kev67, I am sort of picturing Steve Carrell as Charlie.... and I can definitely see Mel Brooks as Humboldt.
    Anyhow, I am really enjoying the book. I would call Bellow's style "Dense, but rewarding". It reminds me of Richard Ford's stuff. There is something immersive about knowing every errant thought in a character's head. All the little flights of memory, the philosophical riffs, and the scatterbrained digressions of Charlie Citrine really give you a complete picture of the person. It's one of those weird instances where you feel like you know a character in a book more thoroughly than you know any of the real people in your life. Laughs.
    Anyway the whole sequence of events with Cantibile made me laugh out loud in several places. Anybody else liking or disliking the story so far?

  9. #9
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    I am about to embark on my second reading of this, and I am fully confident that this time around will open new doors. One of the more intriguing features of Bellow's work is his extraordinary ability to weave in and out of various social classes, notably that of the intelligensia (personified by the title character) and the underworld (in this case Rinaldo Cantabile.) Charlie
    Citrine, the narrator, does -- and doesn't -- feel at home in both strata.

    Another aspect is Bellow's modeling his characters on actual human beings, partially, that is. Strictly speaking, this novel is not really a roman à clef, yet apparently, von Humboldt was inspired by the personality of the great Delmore Schwartz, one of Bellow's friends. Another minor character, Orlando Huggins, is said to have been inspired by Dwight Macdonald. [Full disclosure: I had no inkling of this upon my first reading of the novel, and only stumbled upon the factoid when Dwight M's writings first caught my interest a couple of years ago.]

    Perhaps the greatest contribution from the Bellow canon is his comprehensive world view. His philosophy, and certainly his flawless writing style as well, contributed to his Nobel status, I believe. In Humboldt's Gift especially, the reader can find herself enthralled by lengthy discursive treatises on human nature and the state of the world, or by contrast, a single pithy epigram such as "Dreaming in America is no cinch."

    I sincerely hope that newcomers to Saul Bellow's work will be as captivated as I am.

    Auntie
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 02-19-2015 at 04:02 PM.

  10. #10
    Registered User bounty's Avatar
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    aunt shecky, ive got seize the day---would you recommend that?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    It is very articulate, as you might expect in a book in which the protagonist was made a chevalier de l' ordre du Mérite by the French government for his literature. .
    Delmore Schwartz, after whom Humboldt was said to be modeled, was the youngest person ever to win the Bollingen Prize in Poetry. There are also real-life parallels in Humboldt's tragic end. I'm going to see if my local library has a copy of the biography of Schwartz by James Atlas.

    Humboldt's Gift itself won the Pulitzer Prize, and lest we forget, Saul Bellow was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976.


    Quote Originally Posted by bounty View Post
    aunt shecky, ive got seize the day---would you recommend that?
    I would recommend anything by Saul Bellow. Someone gave me a battered paperback copy of his first novel, Dangling Man, which is on the ever-burgeoning "to read" list.
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 02-21-2015 at 04:57 PM.

  12. #12
    Registered User bounty's Avatar
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    well tell you what---i'll start reading it tomorrow. I am making an effort to be reading two books at once. one that's an easy read and another that's "good for me" to read...

    i'll let you know (eventually, or maybe even really soon) how its going...

  13. #13
    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    I thought it was brave of Bellow to have a long philosophical discussion on the subject of boredom in the middle of the book. I think I detect a slight bit of mid-book sag.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

  14. #14
    Registered User easy75's Avatar
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    Andy Garcia as Cantabile. With a big mustache.

  15. #15
    Registered User easy75's Avatar
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    Favorite lines so far :

    "The weak, at war, never know how hard they are hitting you."

    and,

    "When the judge smiled certain muscles which unsubtle people never develop at all became visible. That was interesting. What did nature originally intend such muscles for?"

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