Saul Bellow ‘Herzog’

Herzog

I’ve been reading Saul Bellow’s ‘Herzog’ (1964) and it’s given me pause for thought, not least because the intensity of the writing is overwhelming; the way Bellow works with the conjunction of improbable partners in misunderstanding and even (imagined?) malice reveals the plight of the creative mind. His prose is aggressive, sharp, staccato daggers as they pierce me with the uncertainty, challenge of life, but tempered, still softened, made conditional, by the salve of familial memory, love, and Moses’ Father Herzog.

And also pause for thought because it has made me, yet again, think about what I write and how I find the ‘right’ form to do that.

The constant commentary provided by the ‘letters’ Herzog writes captures the duality of writing one thing at exactly the same time as thinking about something quite else, of being something, or somewhere, else, evidencing the struggle of setting down the complexity of inner and public life in words, and not, moving images.

And he’s funny! But it’s funny that’s humourless;  the bone jolted in your elbow; the ‘humour’ engendered by the latest pogrom – but still funny!

Though it’s a book of its time it feels, somehow, like a work from the nineteenth century  set in the twentieth in the USA and not Europe in the ghetto (where it actually feels it’s set) from which it stems. Where does success, self worth, achievement and respect exist?

Bellow, aka Herzog (?), is erudite to a fault. Amidst the ‘academic’ arguments, the endless dropping of names that give Herzog purpose, validity, authenticity, everything, so that every memory and thought and plan collides with every other idea in spontaneous combustion as smoke and flames burst from the page leaving me exhausted and astounded hiding from the heat.

The personal becomes universally crucially relevant so that Herzog’s dilemmas are those  we all face in trying to make sense of one existential crisis after another whilst, in Herzog’s case, inflicting yet another upon oneself until the finale.

He asks. Am I this? Am I that? Is it me? Is it her? Is it? Is it real? Is it? What? What is my life? What is the point? What am I? Herzog bellows!

His life unravels, as it must, a tragedy, and it made me weep. Inevitability. Loss. But, also hope. That we, readers, may … do what?

What a writer – that isn’t interrogative (as he might say) but a statement of fact.

When I am, once again, ready, I shall read this book again – unhurriedly, ignoring plot, sustained by the joy of Bellow’s writing, laughing, frustrated, delighted and inspired. That’ll do for me.

“PIGS IN HEAVEN”

pigs in heaven

Barbara Kingsolver’s novel ‘PIGS IN HEAVEN’ (1993) is intriguing.

Initially there is something ‘Updike-like’ about Kingsolver’s prose – sharp ironic writing laced with humour. Early on – “Alice wonders if other women in the middle of the night have begun to resent their Formica.” Later – “You might see things better on television, but you’ll never know if you were alive or dead while you watched.” But, unlike Updike there is a sort of inevitability, a preordainedness, here that is quite different from the tension of the Rabbit books. It’s not a tragedy but rather a celebration of love over adversity.

The portrayal of the Cherokee Nation as a haven of familial support, love and joy makes no substantial reference to the impact of significant poverty and racism instead representing an ideal state of oneness in ‘Heaven’ that it would be a joy to be part of (some of the time).

The plot – no spoilers – resolves itself as if by magic – which is what it is – a ‘romance’ in which the best of all possible worlds comes about through (apparent) serendipity aligned with the scheming of Ms Annawake Fourkiller and the finger of god suggesting the inevitability of the victory of good over evil.

This novel feels good and there’s little harm in that right now in the midst of Brexit and the idiocy of Trump. Nothing wrong at all with love winning the day, but … the pain that has been suffered, the legacy of sadness, to get to that ideal ending is but chaff blown away, and almost forgotten, in a gentle breeze from the idyllic world of the Cherokee Nation in Heaven. But rock on – we could do with more of it! I enjoyed it.

 

 

 

 

Mt. Trump meets Mt. Putin

A tale of two mountains

The two mountains, Mt Trump and Mt Putin, met in Helsinki because they wanted to be friends but they were afraid that their ‘bigness’, ‘strongness’, their ‘mountainess’, would impede this. Even so, two such eminences in the same place was scary like two dormant volcanoes suddenly blowing off at once and molten lava spilling out all over the place incinerating bad people amidst the most dreadful stink of burning flesh.
Mt Trump has big hair. Mt Putin has a bare chest when he rides horses and likes hand-to-hand fighting with men wearing white uniforms. Mt Trump has friends who also wear white uniforms and big white pointed hats even when it’s not Halloween. Mt Putin used to run the KGB but now he owns the FSB (which is not a sports car). Mt Trump is a serial liar, narcissist, misogynist, and racist and adores being a mountain. Mt Trump and Mt Putin have a lot in common. They are rich and elevated above us and we are grateful to live in their shadow.
Both the mountains are patriots. This is important. You can’t be a proper massif unless you are big enough to like war, hate the weak (aka bad), and find convenient victims on which to celebrate your mountainess. These victims can be found in places like Syria, México, the Ukraine and America as well as in mosques.
There has been a lot of trouble in the media about the relationship between the two mountains – this is a result of a misunderstanding, or fake news, as Mt Trump calls it. Mountains are mountains and therefore live on the high ground of their mountainess above the need for the oxygen that mere mortals crave. Sometimes Mt Trump miss-speaks but that’s only because his brain lacks oxygen.
When Mt Trump mentioned the idea that Mt Putin had been tampering with the American electoral process Mt Putin looked as sad as only a big mountain can look when it’s pissing down with sleety rain. I’m sorry, Mt Putin said, how could you think I would have done such a thing? What would have been the purpose? I’m a democrat, just like you. I am a mountain not a dried up wadi like Teresa May. I’m so sad, Donald, that you could think this of me. Mt Trump now knew for certain that he’d been right all along and his own government, and his bad spooks, had been trying to reduce him to a molehill with their bad lies about how Mt Putin is an avalanche in waiting. Being a mountain Mt Trump is above this, above the calumny dumped on his friend’s mountaintop.
There is trust between the mountains. All is good: no more recriminations. Love is in the air. The two mountains will live side by side doing great things while looking down on the bad people and putting bad democracy where it belongs – in the can.

© Phil Cosker 2018

TRUMP

Trump – derivations and deviations.
Twenty-one useful dictionary definitions.
1. Trumpish A language of North American (USA) and Germanic (Friesland) origin. c. 2012-2017 (possibly from much earlier). Racist origins. The earlier versions of the name were ‘trump’ (fart) and ‘ish’ (unknown but thought to be a ref to a leering lisp produced from pouting lips and synchronous with a puckered rectum).
2. ‘Trumpish’ an indelicate emanation from the anus, and sometimes, unfortunately, the aforesaid pouting mouth.
3. ‘Trumpclaninism’, the expression of extreme racist, sexist and homophobic prejudice whilst wearing a conical white hat.
4. ‘Trumpologism’. An inability to construct a consistently logical sentence.
5. ‘Trumpologisms’. (plural) A clinical multiple inability to construct two consequent logically related sentences on the future of the world or the shape of an index finger.
6. ‘Trumphobic’. A challenging and contradictory homophobic attraction to another of the same sex of a similar psychological disturbance i.e. V. Putin (the initial infatuation caused by a photograph of Putin half naked riding a horse).
7. ‘Trumporlia’, the artefacts associated with conspicuous consumption (i.e. women from foreign parts, and their ‘parts’, ‘delighted’ to enjoy their owner’s whims whilst getting new clothes, jewels and divorces).
8. ‘Trumporliaeae’, ancient origin, women acquired as playthings for use by their owner and subsequently displayed to the adoring public as trophies.
9. ‘Trumptoweringness’. A sad and forlorn fantasy that back-combing one’s hair into a comb-over produces a stupefying erection.
10. ‘Trumpobamaship’. A condition where erudition, and the occasional sticking to principles, is denigrated as antithetical to the welfare of humanity, and threatening, to the Trump state.
11.‘Trumperphants’. The collection of arse lickers and cock-suckers making an inner circle (!) of (synonym) ‘Puckerphants’.
12. ‘Trumphilia’. Promoting unqualified and self-serving children, and their partners, as leaders of the free (sic) and untrammelled (sic) world in pursuit dynastic longevity.
13. ‘Trumpdaciousness’. A spectacular proclivity for mendaciousness not in the public interest and for personal profit.
14. ‘Trumping’. The act of Trumping (tautological). The ability to simultaneously celebrate and denigrate one’s political opponents whilst letting off unwanted Trumps.
15.’Trumpdowning’. A little like Watership Down – rabbits in the headlights, a lot of road kill, but, hey, everything has a purpose – what better way to feed the poor?
16. ‘Trumponarcissism’. Mirror mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all?
17. ‘Trumpdysneyfication’. The media’s oligarchs’ management of threats to its own hegemony and management of the underclass(es).
18. ‘Trumpdigitification’. Finger pointing.
19. ‘Trumpabasement’. The denigration of others not to be confused with ‘Trumpabusement’ or ‘Trumpamusement’, (synonyms with the same outcome – red neck laughter).
20. ‘Trumpmodrification’. Unification with god in the service of ‘Trumpdom’.
21. ‘Trumpdom’ the empire of Trump.