KC Kirkley

Reading and Writing in the Margins

We're All Fools: Reading Humboldt's Gift

In this novel of loneliness and irony, Bellow reminds me why I love to read and write...he truly enjoys his words, as do I. While the story is merely interesting, the sentences are salaciously captivating. Some of his passages make me feel like I'm getting away with something...I'd even say he has a voluptuous sense of diction. Sentences, phrases, and even individual words materialize in unexpected, even shocking ways. For instance, here Charlie (the narrator) describes his one time hero/nemesis, Humboldt:

"...he accused, fulminated, stammered, blazed, cried out. He crossed the universe like light. He struck off X-ray films of the true facts. Weakness, lies, treason, shameful perversion, crazy lust, the viciousness of certain billionares (names were named). The truth! And all of this melodrama of impurity, all these erect and crimson nipples, bared teeth, howls, ejaculations! The lawyers had heard this thousands of times but they wanted to hear it again, from a man of genius" (162)

When Bellow gets going like this, he is just pure fun to read. And the real kicker is that it's all done with a perverse sense of irony. These characters describe and speak like this, I believe, out of ignorance rather than insight. If I love these over-the-top pseudo-intellectual characters expounding on the human condition, is the joke on me? If so, I don't care...I'm laughing right along with Bellow at Charlie, Humboldt, and myself.