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Publisher's Summary

For years, they were the best of friends: the grand, erratic Humboldt and the ambitious young Charlie. But now Humboldt has died a failure, and Charlie's success-ridden life has taken various turns for the worse. Then Humboldt acts from the grave to change Charlie's life: he has left Charlie something in his will.
©1973 Saul Bellow; (P)1992 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Scott on 05-10-08

Great Book, Great Reader

This is a wonderful and compelling reading of a very good book: one that would be very easy to ruin with an unintelligent interpretation.

No, there is not a lot of "plot" per se and it is highly discursive: welcome to Bellow's world! There's a passage of several pages where Charlie considers the subject of productive inactivity from every possible angle, which struck me as almost a manifesto for the technique of the novel itself. Events in the outside world mainly serve to prompt ruminating, reflecting, and reminiscing.

But make no mistake: there is in fact a story, it features great, colorful characters, it's told in beautiful language, and it's very entertaining all the way through. It made me laugh out loud all the time. And finally, countless little plot threads that have meandered through the text for hours all get neatly tied up into a satisfying screwball ending.

But the book is not really about the destination. It's about the journey. The book is drenched with warm-hearted nostalgia, and a comprehensive generosity of spirit that is hard to find anywhere in the world, at any time. Charlie Citrine makes the world a bigger and friendlier place to be.

And again, this reader is probably the best possible reader they could have chosen for the part. I plan to give this book a second and third listen in the future. This definitely ranks up there with Ron Silver's reading of American Pastoral, George Guidall's reading of Zorba the Greek, and Donal Donelly's reading of Dubliners as one of the best audiobook performances I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

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15 of 15 people found this review helpful


By Chris Reich on 12-14-14

Rotten Audio Quality, Poorly Read

Herzog! Bam! Henderson the Rain King! Bam! The Victim! Bam! The Adventures of Augie March! Bam!

I seem to have fallen into a Saul Bellow groove. I've enjoyed (Very good to Great) every audio title until this one. I wasn't crazy about the narration but the reader is supposed to be jaded and snarky so I'll give Hurt a pass though I believe much of the Bellow philosophy of life is lost in the monotonous delivery.

I don't think this is Bellow's best but it's still got plenty of meat and a lot of it very tender and delicious near the ample bone. There's a bit of fat and a vein of gristle that makes the book a little dated---it's destined to be a period piece.

The biggest complaint is the awful, tin can like audio quality. I tried all the formats and it made no difference. I thought my ear buds were failing so I got new ones. This book just has lousy sound. If there was another version, read by someone else, I'd ask Audible for a credit. But, alas, there isn't and I may come back to this again so I'll keep it.

I wouldn't recommend it to you.

Chris Reich, The Business Physicist

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Mike Bradburn on 03-20-08

Worth the effort

On reflection, this was quite a remarkable book. At first, I really struggled to follow the narrative, as there were so many tangential strands of the story and I was in serious danger of giving up. However, I'm really glad I stayed with it and I would advise just relaxing and not worrying about trying to find the 'real' plot - just enjoy Bellow's flights of intellectual fancy and allow yourself to wallow in the sublime turns of phrase and the incredible descriptive depths he goes to. I think he won the Nobel prize for this book and you can understand why. It really does become utterly engrossing at times and, despite his oft atrocious over-intellectualising, Charlie Citrine (having to guess at spellings, is one downside of audible books!) becomes truly vivid and lifelike.
I'm not well-up on my regional American accents, but the reader did a great job and seemed to bring a genuine Chicago-feel to the whole novel. Different characters were effortlessly portrayed with only the slightest of vocal changes and the intricacies of the fairly taxing philosophising were navigated as well as possible.
All in all, I was genuinely saddened when the book came to its predictably unpredictable end. Beautiful.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful


By Tom on 05-31-10

A Great Novel

I remember struggling with Saul Bellow at school - Henderson the Rain King, I think it was. So I approached this book with some trepidation. But it is excellent - I love that sharp fluid prose of the best American writers. The novel itself is what you would call multi-layered. The story itself is quite interesting but what really makes the book is the clever way the author juxtaposes the storyline with the philosophical musings of the two main characters; at the beginning I could not believe that the author was being so serious, but by the end the subtlety of the presentation became more clear. The contrast between the main narrator's serious approach to matters intellectual and the seemingly luckless course if his life, and how the two are eventually reconciled is done with great generosity of heart. I loved it.

The narration is beautifully paced and does a great deal to bring out what the book is about.

Warmly recommended.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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