I picked this book up in the used bookstore because I recognized the author and couldn't remember having read any of his books in the past. It's a rambling story of a professor who has become very rich because of a book he published and his dealing a life-ending illness. He obtains a commitment from his friend who is a writer to write a memoir of his life after he dies. His friend becomes ill after the professor dies and finally in recovery writes this memoir.
After reading it and not "getting it" I looked up reviews and found that it was considered a masterpiece that told the thinly veiled story of Bellow and his mentor, Alan Bloom, a philosopher from the University of Chicago. It was the last book Bellow wrote; he was 85 at the time.
I suppose I should re-read the book now that I have its background but I didn't find it that compelling. It was supposed to be a discussion between friends on life and impending death but I didn't take that from it. It could be that it required a slower, more careful read than I gave it. I did like this exchange:
"If you dislike existence then death is your release. You can call it nihilism, if you like."
"Yes, American-style--without the abyss," said Ravelstein. "But the Jews feel that the world was created for each and every one of us, and when you destroy a human life you destroy an entire world - the world as it existed for that person."
I may go on and explore the philosophy of Alan Bloom.
Published: 2000 Read: February 2015 Genre: Fiction