Humboldt's Gift

Humboldt’s Gift

Humboldt's GiftSometimes I feel stupid. Sometimes I feel like books are written with academics in mind, and I’m on the outside looking in. Sometimes I like to eat salty things, sometimes sweet. That said, I’m torn about this book. Bellow’s protagonist is a literature quoting, thesis spewing blow-hard. He wants to be high-minded, but can’t separate himself from the young ladies, his Mercedes and his Italian loafers. Think Frasier with a Pulitzer. The thing I can’t figure out is whether Bellow feels this character is not a complete ass (the way the writers on Frasier feel about him), and this is what has me on the fence. Granted, many other characters in the book comment about how they can’t take his snobby rants, but you can feel Bellow siding with him more often than not. Although, I’m hardly smart enough to figure out if this is the case. He quotes medieval poetry and every classic under the sun. He claims to love his friend, Humboldt Fleisher, an award-winning poet who lost his ability both to write and to reason after starting to show the effects of manic depression. Our main character finds his own success after his mentor and friend Humboldt begins to go down hill. In his success he essentially forgets about who got him there. He becomes complacent and fat (not literally, but on money, luxury and easy fame). The book is this character’s struggle to come to terms with how he treated his now deceased friend, how he has lost his way and what is truly important in his life. The book itself deals with some interesting issues, and is extremely well written, but a lot of the more intellectual, literary material went over my head. I just hope it wasn’t Bellow trying to show us all how smart he is, and how it must be tough on him dealing with the rest of us undereducated, philistine dumbfucks.