Literary Award Winners Fiction Book Club discussion

Humboldt's Gift
This topic is about Humboldt's Gift
Past Reads > Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow, pages 1 - 237

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

George (georgejazz) | 480 comments Mod
Please comment here on Humboldt's Gift, (1976 Pulitzer Prize Winner) pages 1 to 237.

message 2: by Reta (new) - added it

Reta (rrwhite) So I must admit I’m having a VERY difficult time getting through this book. This is my first time reading Bellows, and although I realize he is a renowned laureate and author, his stylistic choices in this book make it difficult for me to focus. I realize that this was probably a purposeful choice, BUT the staccato listing of descriptors line over line and the relentless pacing with very few breaks in the overall text is extremely frustrating. Again the choice may be meaningful (I assume it represents the brutal pace of life itself? Or Citrine’s view of life?) but it makes for a very challenging read. It doesn’t help that (so far) I find nothing likable or redeemable in the characters at this point. I’m about 100 pages in, but it may take me longer than a month to get through it! I’m curious how others feel about the authors style choices?

George (georgejazz) | 480 comments Mod
My book has four black diamond marks to break up the paragraphs every so often. Chapter headings would have been helpful. I am okay with the pacing. The plot moves along in a very unpredictable way with lots of little surprises.

I have read half the book and am finding it a very entertaining, humorous read.
Charlie Citrine is an oddball character with good and bad personality traits. There are many funny moments. I enjoy how he pokes fun at mobster, Rinaldo Cantabile, lawyers and businessmen. I find his comments on Chicago to be quite interesting. Citrine is trying to make sense of his life. What makes him happy? He certainly has a fear of dying.

Here are a couple of examples of lines that amused me:
Humboldt says to Citrine, “Do you think he’s a good critic?” Citrine replies, “Can the deaf tune pianos?” (Page 122, Penguin Book edition)

Citrine states, “Since Denise went on the warpath I’ve seen plenty of business. You fixed me up with Forrest Tomchek, one of the biggest names in this branch of law. It was like laying a speck of confetti in front of a jumbo vacuum cleaner.” (Page 207, Penguin Book edition)

This is my seventh Saul Bellow novel. To me ‘Humboldt’s Gift’ is as good as his strongest works, ‘Herzog’ and ‘The Adventures of Angie March’.

Some people don’t have a taste for the ‘middle aged man in crisis’ theme. This book and a number of the author’s other novels do focus on this theme.

Michael Finocchiaro (fino) | 5 comments This is an amazing book from an awesome writer! Enjoy!

Irene | 545 comments Reta, I am also struggling. I feel like my head is spinning, I can't quite figure out when we are moving from present to past and back again. Suddenly something happens, a character is named and I figure out that the time frame shifted on me. I also don't find anyone likable. Nor, can I quite sympathize with their concerns just yet. Bellow is certainly taking on a large number of themes to explore, but he dips in and out of each so quickly that I am struggling to keep up.

I suspect that I am not as sympathetic with the middle-aged male crisis as I should be. I have noticed that I am less and less fond of Russo's and Updike's characters the older I get. That probably sounds strange since moving through and past middle life should make me more empathetic, even if I am doing it as a female

I am just a little bit shy of the half way point..

George (georgejazz) | 480 comments Mod
Always sorry to learn a reader is not enjoying a book they’d reading or at least finding the book an interesting read. Sadly I cannot state that the book changes it’s style in the second half, so I can’t even give you hope!

I like the shifts back and forwards in time. It makes the novel more unpredictable. I don’t particularly like any of the characters but I am entertained by the situations they get into. Everyone seems to be able to push Charlie Critine around.

Irene | 545 comments Part of the problem for me is that I am severely humor challenged. Humor on the page often goes over my head, or if I do catch it, I don't find it funny. So, I am probably reading this without enough sensitivity to the humor. Instead of laughing at Charlie and his mobster buddy, I am thinking "this is stupid". I am going to try to lighten up. Maybe if I try to use different lenses, I will enjoy it more.

George (georgejazz) | 480 comments Mod
Yes, I know what you mean about reading ‘humorous’ novels. Whilst I enjoyed ‘Less’ by Andrew Greer, I did not find it outrageously funny like many readers.

Also I get a little tired of the same type of humour filtering through an entire book. An example for me is ‘Don Quixote’, which I slowly became bored with, especially in the second half where the protagonist is repeatedly the butt of jokes played on his gullibility.

The upshot is, there are some books that just don’t suit a particular reader for whatever reasons!

Mary (maryingilbert) | 69 comments Purely by chance, and fortunately, I am using an audiobook. I have some long commutes (not work) and so can listen to the book for 3 hours at a stretch. I think that I'm finding the book more entertaining than some of the others in the group, because I'm hearing it and have the advantage of listening to the narrator and his changes in tone and cadence.

Am finding dark humor in the antics or Rinaldo Cantabile (the vandalized Mercedes and the $450 gambling debt -- how many times did Charlie hand over the cash) and the tortuous negotiations between Charlie, Denise, and her divorce attorneys.

It's interesting to see the contrast between Humboldt's declining career, health, and mental health versus the commercial success of Charlie.

George (georgejazz) | 480 comments Mod
Yes, I would like to hear this book on audio. I think there is something to be said for listening to humorous books on audiobook. Good to know you’re having an enjoyable reading experience also.

Irene | 545 comments George, Just to show how humor challenged I am, I did not find Less remotely funny, just whiny. Maybe listening to a great narrator apply the appropriate inflection would help me get it. At the same time, I should not be so dense that I need to have a book read to me in order to understand it.

back to top